Friday, June 13, 2014
I have been thinking of things to say at my dad's funeral for months.
Jeremy and I booked a flight to Atlanta for the end of June. We wanted to be there sooner; our original plan was to arrive somewhere around Father's Day. The girls would be with us, and they would be able to see their grandpa; talk his ear off about things such as mermaids, and unabashedly point out that he looks way different than he used to. Unfortunately, our plans changed, and we had to push the trip out by two weeks.
Dad died in home hospice three days after we finalized our reservations.
Naturally, the dates, etc. just couldn't be changed, and purchasing additional plane tickets to attend the memorial would result in financial ruin (even with bereavement fares).
Anyway, I know that if I did somehow manage to be there I would more than likely be expected to get up and say something. After all, Dad and I always got on so well. Then a verbal mess would kick off with a nervous glance around the room, and a disclaimer about little ones and language. I don't think it's possible for me to go even a day without using a single swear word. Plus, you know, dick and fart jokes forever, since that's how my dad and I rolled.
To everyone's chagrin I would acknowledge how dysfunctional our family was (is), because I'd make it a point to say that no matter how bad things got, he always did his best to make everything as normal as possible. I would talk about how welcoming he was to people -- how he would always offer folks food when they came over. Plantains, eggplants, rice, whatever. If we had it, he would offer it. He liked eating, and would speak very fondly of BLTs and Katz's Delicatessen back in New York.
I always tried to get Dad to come see me (my schedule was much less flexible than his) so that he could get away from everything and relax for a few days. He had the unfortunate habit of playing the martyr; he would take care of everyone with little to no regard for himself. It's part of why we only saw each other four times after I left Georgia: he felt the need to stay put and take care of everyone, lest the house, or his other affairs, suddenly fall into chaos.
At this point I would likely hit a lull; I'm hardly eloquent, so my words would more than likely fail me (if they hadn't already). I'd maybe stammer about how he helped teach Munchkin how to walk, or something like that. There would even be a chance I'd blurt out some discreetly snarky line meant to call out anyone that should have cared more while he was still with us. We always hosted barbecues and parties, with plenty of guests: How many of those people were around when he fell ill?
I'd start to ramble about how things were when he got sick -- about how we'd still talk on the phone quite a lot, and how, for the most part, he managed to stay in pretty good spirits. Of course, his jovial attitude, and our conversations did eventually begin to wane. Soon, I kept being told that I NEEDED to go see him; he looked much worse than he sounded, he was fading; the cancer was eating away at him too fast, etc. Seeing me would make him so happy. "Here, talk to him, tell him whatever-whatever," because, somehow, I was thought to have some sort of magical, cathartic influence over him. If only that were true. After awhile he started to make alarming statements -- like when he said I would cry when I saw him.
Much to maybe everyone's surprise (I would give the room a look) I walked into that hospital room and I didn't cry.
I did have a hard time watching him struggle to do simple things, such as turn his body even a little bit.
For whatever reason, I've become something of a nervous talker so, if I were to even make it to this point without being ushered off the podium, I 'd more than likely start to babble on about the short trip I took over Memorial Day weekend. Everyone thought it was the end, and when I talked to Dad before he went into the hospital he freaked me the fuck out. So, I found a way to get on an incredibly uncomfortable red eye to go to him. I insisted on staying with him in the hospital, but ultimately wasn't sure if my presence accomplished anything. I couldn't help in any capacity, really. I tried, but I failed miserably. He also kicked me out of the room for a little while because he was embarrassed and frustrated that his frail state wouldn't allow him make it to the loo in time to avoid disaster. He yelled at the nurses too though, so whatever. It was nothing personal, and he apologized shortly thereafter.
Knowing me, my brain would hiccup yet again, and I would shift gears to our last conversation, which was on the 7th. He actually called me, which was amazing, since he was always too tired to sit and chat. Seeing his name on my caller ID was legitimately exciting. Like... it was on par with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. Yeah, I'm lame.
He sounded hella exhausted, so we didn't speak for long -- maybe about fifteen minutes or so. I was glad to tell him that, after a few setbacks, Jeremy and I and the girls were finally going to get out there to see him. He said, "three weeks is a long time..." and gave me a line about how we're supposed to "jump over" our setbacks. (I let him know that I tried, but tripped.)
I think that, if I were to lose my shit even a little, it would be here. If I decided to keep prattling on, that is. I don't think I would full on cry, though. Conceal, don't feel, don't let it show -- especially in a room full of people, some of which being near or complete strangers.
The last thing that Dad told me -- before we said "I love you" and "bye" -- was that he would wait for us (Jeremy and I and the kiddos) on the couch, but that obviously didn't happen so now I won't be able to look at any couch the same way again. Especially not my mom's, since that's where he said he would be.
Regardless of whether or not I were to include that bit in my "speech," I would close out with some cliché (but sincere!) line about how Dad's not suffering anymore, which is infinitely more important than, say, waiting on the sofa. Like... he'll be missed; I miss him so damn much already, but at least he can fucking move without the help of two or three people.
That would be it, I think. I'd reiterate that he was a good person, and I would go sit down, and I would wonder what kind of couches there are in the after, if they are comfortable, and if he's sitting on one, eating a BLT.
(He's more than likely shaking his fist at me for not attending the memorial, while, at the same time, not wanting Jeremy and I to completely break our bank to attend the occasion. He was always really, really cheap..)