Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I’ll see you on the Dark Side of the Moon, Dad.

On July 8th, the first man I ever loved, my dad, passed away. As I have mentioned on this blog, he suffered from dementia, and it left him unable to talk, walk or eat.  Because of that, his death was somewhat of a relief. In death, he is not trapped in his body.

Still,  a huge hole remains. No longer will I hear the music he played and taught me to like in my childhood.  He was all about music, from classic rock, to classical. My earliest memory is of him playing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” and him quizzing me on the artist and song.Thanks to him, I became a huge fan, and still am.  I learned to love Pink Floyd(Dark Side of the Moon) because he played the band’s albums for company.When I hear music he played, back in the day, a smile and a tear comes.

His loud voice could halt a room of hundreds. I wonder to whom  he’s speaking now, whom is he honoring with a backhanded compliment, or insulting to tears.

I found out about the bad turn in dad’s health, when we came home from a family trip to the UK to and my mom informed me that my dad was in the care of a hospice team.  That was July 2nd. I went to visit him, and watched my father, in a t-shirt and an adult diaper, struggle to swallow.

On the night he left this world, appropriately enough, blues music played in his room, from Junior Wells to Mississippi Fred McDowell to Muddy Waters. A nurse had told us that he probably wouldn’t live though the night, so I stayed with him.  I needed to assure myself that his death was peaceful. I would keep looking over at him to see if he was still breathing.  At about 8:45 pm, I called nurses in, as it appeared  he had stopped(breathing). confirmed he was gone, and called my mom, while I called my sister.  My mom, sister, and her husband gathered around him, and wished he had never had to live with the terrible disease of dementia, trapped in a body he could not control. I was in shock that this force of nature in my life had left, albeit in his sleep.

It turns out, my sister had composed an obituary, and arranged for a celebration of life at one of my dad’s favorite places, the Rogue Distillery and Brewery in Northwest Portland. Like me, dad was born and raised here. Unlike me, he had a gift for computers, and worked in that field most of his life.The picture accompanying the obituary was taken on one of dad’s better days, while he was enjoying a game of basketball with his grandson, Simon.

My contribution to dad’s celebration was to put together a playlist of music dad liked. To do this, I cast my mind back to what dad would play on his custom-made stereo. That brought to mind, Pink Floyd, Michael Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Also included:  Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Cat Stevens, the Beatles, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and John Coltrane. My sister added to the list, and it played while dad’s family and friends poured into the room reserved for the event.

My sister had made an alter around the vase with dad’s ashes. On one side, she placed a recent picture of dad, on the other, a picture of dad as a young man.  She also adorned at the alter with models of CF trucks. CF stands for Consolidated  Freightways, the place dad worked for 30 years.  Dad smoked a pipe for years, so one was proudly displayed with the photos and artifacts.

At dad’s celebration, I saw many of my parents’ old friends, some I haven’t seen since high school graduation, like the owner of Hillsboro Auto Wrecking. Dad had a way of pissing people off, even sometimes his friends, but I was pleased that a friend, whom dad had alienated, managed to come pay his respects.

My brother-in-law made a speech, the gist of which was that he was happy when my husband  came along, and became dad’s new whipping boy.

Then I spoke about how I would miss all of the music dad blared in the house. Then I told the “toast story”. I went through a period where I would only eat toast. During this time, I had to go to the hospital to get my adenoids removed. A nurse came to take my dinner order, and informed me that toast was not an option. My dad made sure I got toast, just like I liked it, with spongy bread, and NOT CUT ON THE DIAGONAL.

My dad could be an asshole, but he also had a heart and he was my advocate.