Parenthood is neverending

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My dad taking care of me during the Strep Throat Epidemic of 1975

I guess we never stop being a parent. We never stop trying to teach and guide our kids. I had a feeling this is the way it worked but I now see it is the absolute truth.

When my dad was dying of cancer, there were only two of us who took care of him. Me and his partner Jim. Jim was there 24/7. I had 3 little girls to care for also so I had to go home to my house every once and a while to make sure they were eating and clean. I’m very lucky that I have good kids. The 11 year old totally stepped up and cared for the younger two. I was also very fortunate to live less than a mile from my dad’s. My then husband and I were astranged. He was some where on the streets and of no use to me, the kids or my father. A major factor in deciding to divorce. So just Jim and myself dealing with the ravages of cancer. If you have ever watched someone you love die, well, it is a life changing experience.

There are so many funny stories that happened. And so very many that are just not funny at all. But my dad, even on his death bed continued to be my dad. He was addicted to cigarettes. And being the end, neither Jim nor I could deny him the relief that smoking gave him. But he was too weak to safely hold the cigarette himself so Jim or I had to hold it while he smoked. The first time I did this for him was a riot. I smoked for years when I was young. I quit when I was pregnant with my oldest. So, I knew what I was doing. I lit one up and gave it to dad.He looked at me and said in a very weak voice “Do you want a spanking? Good girls do NOT smoke” He promptly dropped it on the wool blanket and then shook it to the floor where it began to burn a hole in the oriental.

I knew then Jim wasn’t kidding when he told me I had to hold it for dad.He would burn the house down. So, from then on, I wouldn’t let him see me light the damn thing, just hold it for him as he took a drag or two. Seriously, this is a horrifying disease.

Nothing bonds two people like caring for the one they love as they die. Jim and I clicked from the beginning and I moved in to help him care for dad during his last weeks. Eventually dad stopped speaking all together. Jim suggested that I have a dear friend who is an Episcopalian priest and volunteer for hospice come and pray with us. So I call Tom and he comes. As I bring Tom in and thank him for coming he is taking in the whole situation. Tom knows me and the kids and he says to dad ” You must be so very proud of your daughter. I know your granddaughters and they are all so very beautiful just like their mom” And I of course try to deflect the compliments saying “Oh, those poor kids having to look like their mother!” And dad gives me a look and nods at Tom and mouths “say Thank You.” And I meekly say “Thank you Tom” Even after his voice had left him and he could not leave the bed, as death was waiting to claim him, he was still being my dad. Guiding me, reminding me that I am a reflection of him and that he loves me. Jeeze Dad….

Coming from a divorced, dysfunctional family is difficult. Cancer is evil. Hospice and making the decision and commitment to die at home and all that entails is overwhelming. And through it all, my dad never stopped being a parent. No matter that I was doing the caretaking. No matter that the physical roles were reveresed and I was feeding and cleaning him as he did for me when I was a little girl. He always was my dad, always setting the example and encouraging me to do the right thing, the best thing for me and for my girls.

About a week before he died he and I had an adventure. And at the end of the adventure, even though I knew that he was in no shape to make decisions I was still looking to him for what I should do. And he knew. He was at death’s door and he was still the dad. I was still the kid. He had strength and courage and a deep well of knowledge that few unsick people have. His determination is what led us on our adventure. And although it was not the best laid out adventure he and I had taken (the coast of Maine, Tavern on the Green, Cats on Broadway….) it was something I will never forget or regret.

I miss my dad but I am very proud to say he never once stopped being my dad. So, it never ends once it begins. Parenthood that is.

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About sparklingbytheway

I am a single mother to three girls. I live in a very small village and I teach dance in another very small village that is on the oppisite side of the medium sized city. This blog is about my life, past, present and future. My opinions, my thoughts, my ideas. I love to read other people's experience, strength and hope and so now I will share a little bit of my own. I love to laugh and make others laugh. I swear and I can't spell for shit but I never intend to offend!!!

52 responses »

  1. Found you from freshly pressed and had to comment on a beautiful story.

    I always tell my now 7-year old that she will always be my baby as will her, currently, baby brother.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have written multiple posts on the fun parts of parenting (Girls are the flowers, boys are the weeds – http://wp.me/pMAmz-2p) – and have even written “freshly pressed”-featured posts on death (The Death Void – http://wp.me/pMAmz-3P) – but I have yet to either write about or experience anything like what you’ve been through. My parents are pushing 70. My kids are pushing 10. Thanks for reminding me that it’s never too late for an adventure!

  3. I love your candor. Really, a great post. It’s so true. Every time I go back home I stay with my dad. It’s like reverting to a 15 year old. Some things never change, and that is comforting.

  4. Wow!!! Thank you all for the positive feedback. I have all these stories in my life and it was only recently did I understand that I find more comfort in other people’s stories that are similar to mine than I ever have from the “experts” who have no personal experience to back up their “knowledge”. So, I guess sharing experience is the best way I have found to heal.

    P.S. it sure is fun to be on the “front page”;)

  5. I really loved your post because it hit a note with me… me, my mother, father, and brother had to take care of my grandfather when he was on hospice and unfortunately we didn’t really have too many happy memories with that. But, it definitely is something that you go through and it changes you. This is a really loving post and thank you for sharing it!

  6. Your post was on the front page of wordpress today as I logged in. I was there when my mom passed away from cancer. In her final days, going in and out of consciosness, she opened her eyes, looked at her children and said, “Silly kids, what are you all doing here? do you think I sick?” She smiled, chuckled and thsoe were the last words she spoke. She held her humor to the end. Parents are amazing..ours, us and the ones to be. Thanks for sharing and causing me to reflect.

  7. wow… you can tell that your father was a true parent just the love he had for you and the love you have for him is so heart felt. this makes me think of my grandfather (he raised me is going through dialysis and has short term memory loss) its hard hearing him repeat himself or confusing my childhood stories w/ my aunts or moms. I pray as a parent I have this impact on my daughter (11months old) I will try my best to love her like your father does you and mine does me. thx for sharing… i cant wait to go home to visit my dad

  8. most people, luckily, do not have to have this experience. i’m sorry you had to have it. it sucks in a way nothing else possibly can and does change your life and your perspective forever. i’m glad your voice is out here, though.

  9. I love my kids and even though it seems like it never ends, at the end you dont want it to end.
    Took them to the beach the other day and when my 3 year old said I cant wait to be in south beach I WAS SHOCKED> long sentence for such a young kid.

  10. Pingback: Parenthood is neverending « My Buddy

  11. Thanks for sharing that.

    I just finished doing a rotation on palliative care–I don’t know how anyone survives the process of watching their parent die–I hope you had good support and that he was well looked after medically—it must have been insanely difficult- and I am so glad to see you found joyous moments in the middle of all of it…..I found there to be some incredible moments between family members while watching their loved ones transition from one stage to another- andfelt so honoured to be there for that small part of it.

    thanks for passing it on.
    Hope you are well
    Nonee’s mom

  12. When we had our first baby 22 years ago, we thought to ourselves, “We won’t be ‘just the two of us’ for 18 more years.”

    Ha! We won’t be “just the two of us” ever again, and thank God for that. Parenthood shapes you, changes you, molds you into a totally different person — one who loves that child so much that, even if he/she hurts you someday, you learn the true meaning of the word forgiveness, because that child is so much a part of who you are.

    Your father sounds like an incredible man, one who nurtured you into being the person that you are today.

    What a beautifully written and poignant piece. Thank you for generously sharing this.

  13. Great story. It’s amazing how parents can be such strong people to their kids, yet have so many flaws at the same time… In a way it’s good to have a parent with some flaws so you have something to learn from.

  14. Beautifully written. As I’m on the brink of taking that leap into motherhood, I can’t help but feel frightened by the lifelong commitment that it is. But when I read about such a special and meaningful relationship as yours with your dad, I know that the commitment is well worth it. What a beautiful tribute to your father.

  15. Indeed it reminds me of my father. He is still in my mind too with his warm and big hands.

    Two question marks pop out over my head.
    1. Whether it has been the same since the beginning of human being and everywhere in the world or otherwise. Again my typical silly question.
    2. If this article is about a father and a child, how is it going to end up with the father (the divorced husband) and his daughters?

    Cancer is evil, OK but divorce could be evil too.
    Is there anybody still know the real meaning of marriage nowadays? I have no idea about it any longer. Why do we marry? Why are many of them Christian for? 1 in 2 couples is facing divorce in the USA and in the UK. Even in a modest country for this phenomenon like Japan the ratio is 1 in 4.

  16. Beatiful story…beautifully written. I lost a dear friend to cancer three years ago and it hurt…still hurts…so, I can’t imagine the pain of losing a parent to cancer. May God always be with you in keeping his memories alive. He sounds like a role-model of a dad. Lucky you!

  17. Just wanted to thank you all again for the comments and positive feedback. The timing of this post making Freshly Pressed is incredible also…my dad and I took our last “adventure” exactly 4 years ago yesterday and he died the following week. So, I do have to say, thanks again Dad….he always had perfect timing 🙂

  18. Such a beautiful post *–* Very touching. That’s a cute pic of your Daddy and you. It’s true… parenthood is forever… I don’t have kids yet but I have great parents and family is the very important thing in my life.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    Kisses

  19. As I read your story I thought of how my father died of cancer, but in a different manner. He gave up completely, closed his eyes and would never speak again, for three months, that is how long it took him to finally die. This was devastating for my mother, to have no communication whatsoever with the man she adored. Even though he was fully conscious, for some very personal reason he just decided to die before his actual death.
    I wish he would have said something to my mom, to me. Yet his silence was definite. Aside from the nightmare this disease is, the darkness he must have felt deep inside, was something that I will always carry with me.

  20. I must tell you that I found your story very endearing, and yes, there is no vacation from parenting, ever.

  21. Your words are so poignant – it truly is a wonderful post. I’m sure your Dad would be very proud.
    Jen…x

  22. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers

  23. Your dad was a great father. Being a dad throughout. I endeavor to be that kind of parent, the never-ending-mom to my own son now 7. Let’s hope I do a good job.
    Your dad surely raised a fine parent of his own. Kudos.

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