Remembering how to Breathe: Homage and Adieu to my Father

My father has been dealing with illness for the last couple weeks, since Thanksgiving.

He was in the hospital twice over the last week, because a twist of complications from COPD and Covid made it impossible for him to breathe. And he wouldn’t eat or drink.

But a week before that he was here and fine.

And yesterday he was stable.

The hospital had sent him for a brain scan because he was delusional and rather hateful. And they discovered that somewhere between seven and 30 days ago he had a stroke.

Well, despite being stable, he apparently had a bigger stroke last night— and it left his legs paralyzed. And he developed pneumonia.

So… I drove to work this morning having last heard that my father was stable and my stepmom was asking family members if we could help care for him while he recovered.

I saw two deer frolicking on the Bizzy Hizzy lawn as I drove to the Stitch Fix warehouse. They were happy and bouncing around, and I was optimistic, Wednesday, after all, is my Friday.

I clocked in and headed to my assigned table and even nailed those numbers as I QC’ed my first few fixes.

I noticed the warehouse seemed hot and sticky and I suspected I smelled funny.

Then my step mom called. She had bad news. Dad was dying.

I walked up to some random supervisor and explained what was happening. Another person who seemed to be more in charge grabbed my Bizzy box and told me he would clock me out.

I had been folding a lovely jewel tone green sweater.

I called the teenager and told her not to go to school.

I drove home racing into a beautiful sunrise.

There was a drug raid at the house two doors down.

The teenager was burning a candle.

We drove to the hospital with no issue and the guard almost stopped us until I told him my dad was dying.

And then when we arrived in the room, my dad looked tiny and frail. He’s always been tiny but never frail.

And this towel in his room was folded like a swan. It seemed out of place, but serene.

We all sat there— my brother for a while, the teenager, my stepmom, her friends, and I— watching my dad gasp to breathe. They didn’t have his teeth in. My sister arrived around 10. She went to the bathroom. The doctor came into the room.

My sister said, “hi, Pop.”

The doctor hugged my stepmom.

And the teenager and I watched him stop breathing. And his death was that quick. 10:07 a.m.

I snapped this photo because if you look near that wad of cotton on his left arm, he has a tattoo of my name. And I might not ever see it again.

My dad was 73. And smoked almost 2 packs a day for almost 60 years.

I have received hundreds of condolences on Facebook today— so many little remembrances of who he was. A message from a high school peer of mine who used to do tractor pulls with my dad. Another high school peer who bought my dad’s tractor trailer. A Target peer whose mom worked for my dad and stepmom, and my dad used to try and explain the tools to him.

Aunt Sharon’s desk

We told my Aunt Sharon. But she said she already knew in her heart.

And we took Dad’s phone charger from his hospital belongings bag so my sister could charge her phone. His teeth are in that pink case. I also took a toothbrush from the hospital. Not sure why. I just wanted it.

And then we got ready for the funeral director.

And then with the viewing and funeral set, we went for pizza.

The people in the local pizza place gave us the pizza for free. My dad made that kind of impact on people.

We asked my mother-in-law if she could make her fried chicken and potato salad for after the viewing. She volunteered to make “Lee’s Beans,” too.

My stepmom’s sister arrived at 7, so after 12 hours I headed home. The teenager looked at me as we walked to the car.

“This is the first time we ever went to the car without Poppop standing in the garage to wave at us,” she said.

4 thoughts on “Remembering how to Breathe: Homage and Adieu to my Father

    1. It happened too soon, but when is anyone ever really ready to look such a central figure in their life? But I’m happy it happened as it did. We were together. The medical procedures weren’t agressive. It was peaceful.

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  1. Thanks for writing this and I can feel it’s not easy to write this post but you did it! That takes a lot of courage to share about your journey with your dad here. I am sure your dad was an awesome person who loved you very much and he is now with God watching over you and your family. I pray that our Heavenly Father gives you and your family peace during this tough time and be by your side. God bless you ~ Happy New Year!

    – Hope

    Liked by 1 person

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