It’s all clear to me now. I knew I wouldn’t be 55 forever, and now I have to change the name of my blog. It’s a little early, because I won’t ACTUALLY be 56 until Thursday, but I thought I could jump the gun a little bit.
When I was about 24, I remember reading a novel about a woman in her late 30’s who found true love. I remember thinking, “Well, that’s a little gross, to think about somebody that old having those kinds of feelings!” And here I am almost 56, realizing that I’m just the same personality I was at 26, and feel just the same as I did then. I’ll probably feel the same way at 86 (except I hope I’ll be a little more patient and kind). So happy birthday to me a few days early.
My father, Edward L. Hart, was the best dad a girl could have. In this photo Patty and are are with him on vacation–I think it’s 1964 and I was about 12.
It’s strange to some people that at age 55 I’m still calling him “Daddy,” but that’s just who he is.
My dad believed in me. He thought I was funny and smart. Whenever I wrote something, was quoted in something, or achieved something (no matter how small), my dad was proud of me. He had a file in his cabinet that contained every letter, postcard, and newspaper clipping that I had sent to him in the past 15 years. I was glad I’d sent him so many things—and happy that he wanted to keep them.
My dad taught me that a person could be smart and still like popular culture. My idea of heaven would be lying on my dad’s shoulder watching “The Beverly Hillbillies.” He could quote Shakepeare and Milton, but still enjoy silly tv shows.
In the last few days he was alive, Daddy was having trouble seeing. It probably had something to do with the fact that he was losing blood slowly somewhere in his body. My sister, Patty, and I had to lead him into the kitchen to eat, and he made an allusion to Milton’s “Samson Agonistes,” where Samson has been blinded and has to be led to the pillars he plans to pull down. What class!
I love that fact that he kept reading, studying, and doing puzzles right to the end. One image I will never forget is that of him still trying to do the crypoquote several days before he died—when he couldn’t see clearly and when sleep was overcoming him more and more often. He just held the paper in his hand and still kept trying. He was the epitome of determination—still keeping his routines. Still eating his meals at regular intervals. Still rousing himself to call out an answer to Jeopardy. He’ll always be my darling Daddy.
Last night at 10:04 my dad left this earth. It was truly a sacred experience to stand around his bed with my brothers and sister and four of my nephews. We took turns sitting with him throughout the day. At times he would seem to rouse a little bit, and once even said “It must be time to get up,” but would just go right back to sleep. he has said in the last five months, since his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, that he hoped he would die in his sleep. I’m so glad he got his wish. I’m so glad he was able to die at home with a lot of dignity. I’m so impressed with the hospice workers who helped us this past week.
As his breathing got more and more labored, all I could think was, “Please, God, take this good man home” over and over again. He left very peacefully.
Family members were speculating about the reunion between Dad and Mom. I hope that heaven doesn’t make people sappy. I hope my mom said something like, “Hell’s bells, Ed, what took you so long.” I will miss my dad for the rest of my life.
Today dad has not woken up, and it’s almost 3 in the afternoon. It is probably because his medication is just making him sleepy. Lots of family are here–and one of the favorite family pastimes has already taken place, that is, watching Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and supplying all the lines. Isaac could totally supply all of Pee Wee’s words!
Last night was so wonderful! We sat around his bed and reminisced. He talked about how their family had one of the only phones, and people were always trying to get them to deliver messages. One stormy night he and Eugene were picked to deliver a message on horseback, and Eugene said if he had to go that he would break his arm. Sure enough, the horse slipped, and Eugene broke his arm–they had to walk home because the horse ride was too painful. He also sang lots of songs, including the one about the mule named Jake who was a “kicker.” What a wonderful experience it was. There’s not really anything to do right now except wait. It’s great having Alex, David, and Isaac here. Liz and Sarah will be here soon, and Richard and Reuben are on their way. It’s great to be part of a good family.
I’m at my dad’s house, and things here are in both slow motion and fast forward. I got here Monday, hospice people came Tuesday, another nurse came yesterday. He is declining fairly rapidly. Yesterday he could still get around very weakly with a walker. This morning he had to be carried to the bathroom. He fell in the middle of the night and cut the back of his head. This is so hard, it’s unbelievable, but he is so loving and patient, that it is likewise hard to believe.