Just hours after my last entry, our home phone rang, and the answering machine picked up. It was my brother in law, letting my husband and me know that his father was in ICU and that it was serious.Within an hour, my husband was on his way to Oregon, a 12-hour drive, to say goodbye.
Losing a loved one is never easy, but losing a parent with whom you’ve had a contentious relationship seems that it would be doubly hard. I know that I never fully “got” my father in law (he and I were like oil and water) and I experienced a wide range of emotions over the next few days. I’ve asked my husband what he’s feeling and, being a guy, he gave me a short answer that hinted at more. From Wednesday through Friday night, I occasionally heard from him but mostly wondered what was going on.
You know how, when you fall in love and break up with someone, every song on the radio seems to be speaking to you? It’s the same when someone in your circle is about to die. As I rushed to pick up my son from daycare on Wednesday, I listened to a local Bay Area radio station, and hoped that my husband would get to his parents’ house in time to have one last conversation with his dad, before it was too late to apologize. I wondered whether I’d be summoned, and if I did, how would it be received? Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease? Then, I would start to break down at the wheel… I guess that I, I just thought, maybe we could find new ways to fall apart.
It was breaking the news to my 8-year-old that helped me put everything into perspective. He was more curious than anything, and after my father in law passed on Thursday, we talked about funerals, cremation, life after death, reincarnation and more. He said he was a little sad, but mostly worried about his Daddy and assured me he’d “pat his back and tell him it’s OK”
My father in law, who could be combative, argumentative, caustic and curmodgeonly to a fault went peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. A former pilot for Pan Am, he left this plane the day before the anniversary of his first wife’s death.
A few minutes after Jack went, I got an email at work to let me know. I walked to the HR department to ask about bereavement leave and the Employee Relations Manager had someone in her office. To kill time, I checked out the management books library. The very first book I laid eyes on was titled JACK – a biography of Jack Welch. I believe it was a quick goodbye.
My husband returned late last night and we stayed up until 1am talking. His dad has bowed out of the dance of life, and the rest of us continue to waltz.