As a kid, I would follow you from room to room. I didn't do it intentionally. I would be playing, look up and no one would be around, so I'd find you, sit down and start playing some more. Eventually, I'd look up and no one would be around, so I'd find you again. You weren't avoiding me, you just had things to do that didn't require sitting around while I played at your feet. On the rare occasions you were sitting (nascar is on or football but usually it was for nascar), I would sit in front of your chair but not in front of the tv and either keep myself busy playing quietly or watch as you blew smoke rings to the ceiling. (back before you quit) When it was warm outside, you would sit in one of the chairs with the radio on, a dog at your feet and I would run around the yard. There was never much in the way of speaking, unless you were singing along to the radio or asking me if I wanted some chocolate covered caterpillars, crickets or ants, and we liked it that way. At night, we were always the last to sleep. You would sit down in one of the recliners (which I now own and plan to reupholster) and I would sit on the my bed made of egg cartons. Grandma had bought proper beds but us kids always preferred to sleep on the floor in the living room. You would usually watch the country music channel or an old John Wayne movie. The line dancing I could've done without but I did enjoy watching the duke. Late into the night, you would give in and go to bed, giving me access to the remote control. I would spend hours watching Golden Girls or I Love Lucy. The next morning you'd barely be able to finish your coffee before I'd be awake and back at it. There was only one time I can ever remember you getting stern with me my entire life and I deserved it. I was four or five, testing the limits of your patience. We, you, grandma and myself were watching tv and I was crawling through the drapes. No matter how many times you asked me to stop, I would just continue on when I thought you'd stopped paying attention. I would've gone after me a long time before you did. As I grew older, the only thing that changed was that I didn't play anymore but I still wasn't usually more than a room away from you. I can only imagine what you were thinking all those years. 'Damn kid won't give me two seconds of peace.' I always wanted the man that I married to have the same sense of values that you did. And when you met Shawn and instantly had a bond, I knew I was doing ok.
During those teenage years, I did things that I shouldn't have and all along worried that you would find out and it would disappoint you. Even though you had been a smoker, I never wanted you to know I was one, although I think you had a pretty good idea. I wanted you to be proud of the person I was becoming. After all, as a child, you were a god to me, infallible and infinite. All it would've taken to get me to stop doing anything at all, would've been a look of disapproval from you.
After Jasmine was born, I was intrigued by the attachment she had to you. The bond that you shared was immediate and binding. You were two kindred souls. There was not much communication on her part, other than smiling every time she saw you or heard you voice in another room and yet there was a perfect understanding that you were the same. She, too, would've followed you from room to room. The only difference is, I don't think she would have the ability to keep as quiet.
All those years you were the strongest person I knew. You could do work that it would take several men hours of work to accomplish. The only time I think you looked back and thought maybe you should've had someone else do a job, was when you were pulling that old post out of the ground for my mom. You remember, the post that went through the back window of the truck that you were sitting in. It probably damn near scared the shit out of you but hearing my mom's voice full of panic caused you to laugh. I'm sure she thought she'd need an ambulance for you and here you were laughing at her. It wasn't long after that however, that you were putting up the wood fence there. You were down to the gate that had been giving you all some trouble. I was on the deck and our eyes met. It's one of the few times I could truly tell you were in pain. It must have been something awful too because you never left a job unfinished.
It seems like months later that they finally sent you in for xrays and found the mass growing in your lung. Then, everything moved in fast forward. It didn't seem like we had a chance to catch our breath before we were in the hospital, waiting for you to come out of surgery. Mom and I, met you and grandma at the hospital to be checked in. They let us see you after you'd gotten some of the medication to relax you. They were signing forms and you told me to take a flower. I looked puzzled for a moment before I realized you were a bit high and thought that the flowers attached to the pen were real. I don't remember if I'd slept that night or not. The waiting makes you sick. You want to shake someone and ask them what the hell is going on. Our family took up a good portion of that little waiting room. I'm sure they were relieved when we were told you were in recovery and we could all go back and see you. I thought I could be strong enough but when I saw the tubs coming out of your chest and all the wires attached, I felt sick and knew if I didn't leave the room immediately, I was going to pass out. The nurse asked a family to move off the couch so I could lay down for a few minutes. The elderly gentleman said he understood as his granddaughter had the same reaction upon seeing his wife in recovery.
We all walked on egg shells for quite some time after your surgery. You healed, slowly. We were worried that every scan would show it was back or had spread. You did too. You were convinced it had come back. And eventually, you were right. Only it had nothing to do with the cancer that had been in your lungs. This was a whole other monster, one that couldn't be removed with a scalpel. This one was living in your blood. The doctors put you on a new type of chemo that you could take in pill form. We thought we had plenty of time before the cancer would take it's toll. I had just seen you a day or two prior. My mom took a day off work just for the hell of it, when the phone rang. The caller id said it was from the hospital. I answered it. Grandma was on the other end and I knew immediately, it was bad. We were dressed, ready to go and to the hospital quite quickly, looking back but at the time I worried that we weren't driving fast enough. You were still in the ER when we got there. Grandma had calmed down a little. You were having trouble breathing to the point that she called an ambulance. You had pneumonia but waited till there was no stopping it to rear it's ugly head. I didn't leave the room to hear what the doctors had to say. I didn't want to hear them if it meant it couldn't be said in the room. Eventually, they moved you up to the cancer ward. I thought you were doing better. I didn't want to see the truth. I even tracked down your nurse when I went to get a pop and asked her if you didn't have the DNR, if there would be some way to remove the excess fluid from your lungs. Yes, I would've tried to go against your wishes if it meant saving your life. I just couldn't stand the thought that something completely treatable would be the thing to snuff out the brightest candle to ever burn. When it happened, I felt like they were going to have to drag me from the room. The nurses wanted to make the room more presentable for family that was yet to come. I, on the other hand, felt like if I let go of you, it was really over. If I let go of your hand, the connection would be broken, I would be broken. A part of me would be taken and I would no longer be whole. If it had been a nurse to pull me off of you and not my mom, I would've hit them. I don't doubt that for a second. I wasn't ready. But I never would've been ready. The only sound I could hear were my mom's voice and my soul being torn apart. Jasmine had been silent the entire time. She sat in her car seat for at least an hour. Within a minute of your passing, she was inconsolable. It got so bad that I had Shawn take her to his mom's house for a few hours. But not before I let her sit on the bed next to you and touch your hand. It was the only time she stopped crying. She was only four months old.
I would never have been anywhere different than by your side that day. I know some people would never watch their loved ones pass away. For me, there wasn't a question. There was nothing anyone could've offered me to have taken me away from that hospital that day. That piece is still missing but I feel you around me. When grandma broke her arm on Christmas day a few years ago, we talked about the jokes you would've made, once you knew she was going to be ok and was fully doped up on pain killers of course. I say melonwater now instead of watermelon. I can only imagine how mad grandma was when she realized that's why my aunt didn't know what a watermelon was. Someday, I'll eat a twix and ask my kids if they want a chocolate covered caterpillar. I'll bit into it and say "See, it's still fresh and chewy on the inside." I don't think any of us kids took any candy you ever offered us. Too afraid it would actually be made of bugs.
I will always carry me with you but I can never get that piece back. After a while, crocodile.
3 years ago