R.I.P. Daddy

Image of older man and candle

My dad died last month.

Daddy had this thing he said. “Hurry every chance you get.” I’d forget my coat on the way to the car on a chilly, Alaskan morning and have to run upstairs to get it. Glancing at his watch, he’d call after me, “Hurry every chance you get.” But it wasn’t strictly about time. He said it to the neighbors as they left for a mid-winter trip to the warmth of the lower forty-eight. “Hurry every chance you get.”

Before a scary, tenth-grade chemistry midterm, my first lesson with the driving instructor, or heading out with a friend to trick-or-treat: “Hurry every chance you get.”

You’d think Daddy was a Type A personality with all that hurry in him. But no. He knew how to lie in the grass and watch clouds float by. He knew how to enjoy fishing when the fish weren’t biting. Daddy could have just as easily said, “Focus on what matters and don’t waste energy on other stuff.”

Don’t fiddle around picking a coat. Just grab one.

Enjoy your trip down south.

You’ve studied thoroughly for the midterm. You’ll do fine behind the wheel. You two vampire kids be safe out there.

Apparently Daddy said the same thing at work. (BTW, it was always Daddy and Mother. Maybe that’s a Southern thing, my family having Southern roots.) One year his fellow petroleum engineers got together and gave him a plaque engraved with Hurry every chance you get. I rescued the plaque from my parents’ house.

I am not all that sad at his passing because I’ve already grieved. Daddy had Alzheimer’s, and he stopped recognizing me in 2015. I realized the father I knew was gone. I shed tears for two years and punched pillows and screamed at God and did all the regular things grieving people do. Daddy’s recent corporeal death is a relief, really, a relief that his clever and kind and wonderful mind is finally free of that awful disease.

Because Alzheimer’s sucks.

The last time Daddy and I had a conversation when he still recognized me, we were walking on the sidewalk outside an Anchorage hospital. Actually, I was walking. He had trouble with his gait by then and was shuffling. He was trying to describe what was going on in his head and getting more agitated with every word. He described how he could “see” chunks of his brain go black.

“I know, Daddy. That’s why you’re under the care of several doctors.”

“Do they have a diagnosis?”

Do I tell him? I didn’t know if it would upset him or if he’d get even more frustrated not knowing. This was new territory for me. Over the next few steps (shuffles) I remembered the honest things he had shared with me over the years, uncomfortable things about why a certain family member was this way, why another relative always did that thing, even what happened to the boy in the pond.

“You have Alzheimer’s,” I said.

His masculine, adult veneer cracked. “Then people will make fun of me,” he whined. I had never heard my dad whine, but I knew the disease did awful things to a victim’s personality.

“No they won’t,” I said. “I won’t let them.” His shoe was untied. He couldn’t tie a shoe anymore, so I knelt down and tied it for him.

“How will you stop them?” His normal voice again.

“I’ll beat ‘em up!” I swung a fist through the air to punctuate my promise.

Daddy laughed. It was the same laugh he used years ago when my adolescent friends and I would be up to some antic or another, as in, Oh, you silly kids.

It didn’t matter that I had told him his diagnosis. By the time the sidewalk ended and we were at the doors to the hospital, the part of his brain that stored me, that remembered conversations, that understood diagnoses, was black.

It may not have made me particularly sad that my dad died last month, but it threw me off kilter. Like God had taken the horizon and tilted it a bit. I found myself stumbling around. What do I do next? Why does it feel like I’m marching in place?

I set up a mini-memorial with his picture, a candle, and the old plaque from his coworkers. Every time I sit down to write I light the candle. Daddy is my muse for now. He reminds me to keep moving forward, to hurry every chance I get.

114 thoughts on “R.I.P. Daddy

  1. Beautiful words, Priscilla. Brings tears to my eyes.

    Your daddy left that rotten disease behind and now he can see you again. I know he’s proud. My grandmother had alzheimer’s. Like you, she stopped recognizing me too. It’s heartbreaking.

    It took a lot of strength to write this but I’m not surprised. You are a strong person. Just like your daddy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lovely tribute to your daddy, Priscilla. You lost him twice, I can’t imagine how devastating that must be. Your beautiful words are drawn from the strength within you… Blessings to you during your time of grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry for your loss, Alzheimer’s is terrible. My granddad lost all sense of who he was in the years leading up to his death, although he could remember the past with more clarity and started calling me by my mum’s name as I look like a younger version of her. I hope a cure is found before my mum gets to his age, as she’s terrified she’ll end up the same way 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry for your loss. That is a sad story, but you gave us a positive image of your father.
    My uncle died of Alzheimer too. he struggled with the disease for years, and at the end, he just lay on his bed, unmoving, not even able to raise a spoon to his mouth. It was really sad watching someone you love losing themselves to such disease. I understand what you mean by ‘relief’.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So sorry to hear this news, Priscilla. Alzheimer’s is a dreadful disease. My mother has it and it is a trying time for the family. It’s lovely that you have a memorial and use him as your muse. Such a beautiful way to remember him. Hugs! xx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Se conoscessi il mistero
        immenso del Cielo dove ora vivo,
        questi orizzonti senza fine,
        questa luce che tutto investe e penetra,
        non piangeresti se mi ami !
        Sono ormai nel quieto incanto di Dio,
        nella sua sconfinata bellezza.
        Le cose di un tempo
        sono così piccole al confronto !
        Mi è rimasto l’amore di te,
        una tenerezza dilatata
        che tu neppure immagini.
        Vivo in una gioia purissima.
        Nelle angustie del tempo
        pensa a questa casa ove un giorno
        saremo riuniti oltre la morte,
        dissetati alla fonte inestinguibile
        della gioia e dell’amore infinito.
        Non piangere se veramente mi ami !

        G. Perico

        If you knew the mystery
        immense of Heaven where I now live,
        these endless horizons,
        this light that invests and penetrates everything,
        you wouldn’t cry if you love me!
        I am now in the quiet enchantment of God,
        in its boundless beauty.
        The things of the past
        they are so small in comparison!
        I have love for you,
        a dilated tenderness
        that you don’t even imagine.
        I live in pure joy.
        In the straits of time
        think of this house where one day
        we will be reunited after death,
        quench your thirst at the unquenchable source
        of joy and infinite love.
        Don’t cry if you really love me!

        G. Perico

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so sorry, Priscilla. It’s hard to lose a parent. I lost my mother when I was 2. But I cannot imagine going through what you’ve been through. Despite all the hardships, you are so brave and inspiring. He would be very proud of you.
    Love, Jess. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My goodness, I’m so sorry you had to experience this. I’ve seen family struggle with Alzheimer’s and it is horrible to watch. I’m glad that you got that last chance to speak with him, and I’m glad that he’s no longer suffering. Over time the horizon will right itself again.

    Also yes, I call my father Daddy, and my mother Mother until she told me to call her Mom. It made her feel weird cause her mother was called Mother. I think you’re right, it is a Southern thing. ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such a stirring tribute to your father’s life. And, I understand the mixed feeling of relief when a loved one dies from a horrid disease. The feeling of relief that they are out of pain and imprisonment can also be met with guilt for feeling that way. Perhaps only those who know this can understand.

    I’m sure you felt your father’s love when you wrote this. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Oh my goodness, Sue Marie, you zeroed in on my emotions as if you have experienced them yourself. I was flooded with all sorts of fun memories when I wrote it, so yeah, that was probably Daddy sharing his love and a laugh or two with me. I’m glad you stopped by.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This was very touching. I am sorry for your loss. As you know, I had my own loss this past year and if there is anything I have learned, it is that grief is weird. It has no specific timetable or we all have our own way of dealing with our loss. I know you’ve said you’ve already grieved, but if there is ever a time where it comes bubbling back up, know that that’s okay. I don’t think we ever completely leave our grief behind when we lose someone we love.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So sorry for your loss, Priscilla. I know some people who have lost loved ones to that insidious disease. I can’t imagine the grief of having that person physically, but losing who they are. This piece is intense, and I hope writing it was cathartic.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A beautiful memorial and a very touching post, Priscilla. I’m sorry for your loss, and I completely understand your feelings. It’s been five years since my Dad died, just this month, and although in his case he went after a painful physical illness, it was also a relief to know that he wouldn’t suffer any more. Alzheimer’s is a particularly cruel illness. He’d be proud to continue to be your inspiration. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s