Thursday, June 16, 2005

The last time I saw you

IT'S Father's Day this weekend and I suppose its got me thinking, the last time I saw you was at the end of that summer two years ago which I spent travelling up and down the 100 miles to come and see you in hospital. I had no idea you were so ill.

That summer was the first time in a while that all your children would be together at the one time in the one place. Up until that Friday evening, bar one or two occasions, if I was up to see you, the others were away and if the others were with you, I was away. Looking back on it, something was very different that weekend and I will always be thankful for that.

For a start, I took the afternoon off so I could get presents for my nieces and nephews whom I hadn’t seen in a while and who would be there to see you too. After shopping, with arms full of teddy bears and toys, I ran to catch a bus into town to begin my journey home.

Dublin isn’t an easy city to get across on a Friday afternoon and getting close to town, I got anxious thinking I would miss the bus, so I stood up and talked to the bus driver about the mad, crazy traffic and how I would miss my bus home. Astonishingly the driver decided to drop off all the passengers in town and then divert from his normal route along a one-way traffic system to drop me off at the bus station.

I caught my bus and three hours later I was practically skipping into the hospital, delighted to be seeing you, delighted to be seeing other members of our family whom I hadn’t seen in a while. However their faces stopped me in my tracks.

They told me how bad you were, how you had gone down very quickly and things were looking bad. Up to that afternoon, the hospital said you were making progress, things were going well. They advised me to let you rest but I wanted to let you know I was here and ran up to see you. I will never ever forget seeing you lying on the bed, with an oxygen mask on your face, your laboured breathing and how you had gone downhill since the weekend before.

Shocked and shaken by the sight of you in the hospital bed, I went over and caressed your face, kissed your head and my voice cracking told you that I loved you and I would be back to see you later. “Okay pet”, you said. Tears streaming down my face (then as now) and that was the last thing you said to me, after I left, things got worse – you got worse.

We were advised to go home and let you rest and we did. When I phoned later that evening, I was told that we should come back to the hospital. That 11pm taxi-ride was one of the most horrible journeys of my life.

We got to the hospital, no one talking as we travelled up the six floors to where you were. You looked even worse, more uncomfortable and more laboured. We sat with you all night, all worried and unsure of what we could do, the reality was we were doing all we could by being with you.

I remember holding your hand, you knew it was me and held my hand back. We all spoke quietly and then it was time for the priest to come and deliver the last rites to you. He was only new to the hospital and very nervous making smalltalk with people who just didn’t want to know but were trying to be polite.

At one point during the sacrament you appeared to come too and looked shocked and scared to see the priest and us praying over you but you prayed too, mumbling the words with us.

At different points you spoke to people who were over our head. Your eldest child, ever Mr Sensible, said it could be due to a lack of oxygen but I know what I know and that is that people whom you loved and whom loved you were coming by to welcome you. Not being a spiritual person and not knowing what I believe in that way, this is somewhat hard for me to grasp, but I saw you smile and chat away (though we didn’t know what you were saying) to them all. Your gaze was direct when looking at them, not the way you looked at us with obvious discomfort and pain, your expressions clear, others besides us were there and it was comforting to see and know that.

At one point, I went for a cigarette with my aunt where we ended up helping some lost girl get a taxi and get out of the maze of the hospital. We went back up to the ward where you were and on the way we stopped to watch a beautiful sun rise behind the steeple of a nearby church.

As we headed back down the corridor to your ward, we were told to 'hurry in this is it’. Nothing could have prepared me…

We went in and as we did you just passed on, I could tell by your face. Everyone was standing stunned around your bed, unsure. That was the last time I hugged you. It was strange, horrible, heartbreaking to say goodbye and I did. We all did and then were taken to a room where we all sat looking at each other. One of the hardest was leaving the hospital at 5am and leaving you there too.

Since growing up, we have had a strange and strained relationship, we both know why but we healed many, many things over that summer and I will always be so grateful for that. I am so grateful for the many precious memories from that summer in the hospital. Sitting with your friends, chatting and laughing. Watching you squirm as your friends told me stories of your youth that you thought inappropriate but nevertheless hilarious. I will always be grateful that the last words I said to you that you responded to were ‘I love you Daddy’. After all, at one point, I was Daddy’s girl; I believed that I would marry you when I grew up.

I will always be indebted to that bus driver for getting me to my bus in time to tell you that I love you before you became too ill to know what was happening around you. I will always be so grateful for that act of kindness, sometimes we have no idea how a small gesture can have a profound effect on someone. I will also be forever indebted to the powers that be that ensured we all there together with you.

Despite initially feeling guilty about dragging my aunt away when I did, I now am of the belief that you wanted it that way. Why did I sit all night, not once going out for a ciggie until that moment? I tend to believe that you thought it better for us to be away for that one moment, both of us. I don’t know why but you did.

There was so much more and bigger than us working then, probably working throughout that summer. How else can I explain everything?

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this, I haven’t been able to before now though much of this has been screaming around my head waiting to be released. I think about you often. On my first day in my new job I started after you died, I thought about you as I walked in, I thought about you laughing at my job but I know you would have been, well are, proud of me, of that I am very certain. You were a gentleman and I miss you Daddy. Happy Father's Day.


Jen said...

What a tear jerker! Your writing is very powerful.

Rowan said...

That's beautiful.

Bernard said...

Thanks for writing one of the most powerful pieces I've ever read about dads and daughters.

alena said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

i cried like a baby
that was powerfull