Thursday, May 2, 2013

Life Is But A Dream

This weekend will be one year since I took a four hour train ride to meet my dad for the first time. It was May 5th/2012, and I was a nervous wreck! I was so excited and could not get there fast enough, and at the same time I was sure I was going to throw up! My stomach was doing flip-flops. The day had finally arrived, I was going to be face-to-face with my father!!

I can recall every second of that trip in my mind's eye. I can see my sister in her pink sweat shirt, sitting on the hood of a car next to my brother in law, the first two people I saw when I got off the train. I knew them instantly! I remember hugging them and thinking - wow! I am hugging my little sister for the first time! We went to the van and she and I began to bag up the gifts I had brought for her kids. I could not wait to get to the house. The entire ride up there was so surreal as they pointed out points of interest along the route. Dad's church ... the house my other sister lived in. Everything they pointed out - everything I saw became an instant snapshot in my mind. I did not want to forget a single moment. Memories I wanted to preserve forever.

We got to the house and my heart was beating in my eyeballs!! I could hardly breathe!! I could hear dad's voice as he made his way down the short hallway. I wanted to go to him - as he was recently back from hip surgery .. but I knew it was important to him to be able to come to me. So I waited, and when he turned the corner - and we hugged... I wanted to cry.  I can still feel his arms around me.

We went to the sun porch and sat, chatted, looked through photo albums. I could not take my eyes off of him.  I wanted to remember every fleck in his eyes, every wrinkle, every gray hair. His face - his sweet face burned into my mind and into my heart. And when I close my eyes, I can see him sitting there.

We had dinner, and I spent some time on the back deck with my sister, brother-in-law and their kids.  It was so amazing having that time together. The kids were so adorable! I instantly fell in love with my niece and nephew.

Later that evening, the family was inside watching a movie, and I was out on the deck having a smoke. Looking around. Listening to the voices from within the house when it hit me. "I am at my dad's house!!" I wished that I could lock that moment in time and just stay there forever! How I wish that life came with a pause button.

When I returned inside, we all gathered around dad's chair where he spent much of his time after the surgery. His hospital bed next to it, where my brother-in-law was laying back, my sister and I were on the small sofa under the window, with the kids. Dad's wife pulled out some question cards and we took turns sharing with one another. I remember a question came up asking what our biggest regret was, it was my turn and my sister pipped up "I know!" ... I looked to her and she said .... "you regret never have had a son" ... she was right, but more than that - it felt like she really knew me. Like we were real sisters.

A while later it was time for everyone to turn in. It had been a long day. I remember looking at dad and it felt like I was moving through a dream - I was going to sleep just downstairs from him - for the first time.  Truth be told, I really did not get much sleep that night. I was so tired, but my mind was just racing. I was sure that I could hear his heart beating through the house.

The next morning after getting cleaned up, I came upstairs and took this pic of Dad reading the Sunday paper. I sat with him for a while, and he showed me the bible that he and his wife had given me the night before, that it now read to Laura from Tricia and Dad. That meant the world to me, it sits in my living room to this day - as I read daily from it.

We spent the rest of the day just visiting, and I played games with my niece and nephew, we colored and played, and took loads of pictures to remember the time we spent together. We gathered around the table and as I sat next to dad, we held hands during prayer. I have to say that his wife made what is probably the best chicken salad I have ever had in my life!

Before I knew it, the day had passed and it was time for me to head home again. The visit had gone by so quickly! I had only booked a short trip in case it didn't go well. Having not booked a longer trip is probably now my biggest regret.  I wasn't overly worried about it at the time because I was going to return in July with my daughter. She was going to meet her Papa for the first time.

That trip was not to be. It turns out that the weekend I spent with him was the last time he felt well. In fact his health quickly turned for the worse after I left. And those who know me, or have followed my journey, know that three months later my dad passed away.

The lesson here is what I always say, that tomorrows are never promised. I counted on that second trip in July, had I known then what I know now, I would have booked a longer trip in May. I would have not waited until May in fact. I would have gone in December, and every month after.

As this weekend approaches, I find myself very weepy. My heart is so thankful for the time I got to spend with my dad. So thankful for the memories. So thankful that he was well during that time we spent together. But I am still grieving the loss of him. My heart still hurts. And those who have been following along, know that not only did I lose my dad, but the rest of that family as well.

The memories of that weekend on one hand are so vivid.

On the other hand, the whole thing is like a blur.

I suppose when it's all said and done, life really is but a dream.