This morning after breakfast I was cleaning like a maniac. Today's supposed to be Madelene's day off, but she had to go into work to finish up a few things. As I was wiping down every single appliance and counter in the kitchen, I then went to clean the fridge. A photo of Dad and I was still hanging up, along with my grandmother who had passed away some time ago. A few were of my wife and I, and some family members, but for whatever reason, I had to take them all down. I didn't do it because I want them out of my life - I did it so I can be reminded less in order for my heart not to break each time I reach into the freezer to grab the vodka. That's a whole other story. Within time, that photo will be back up. I just need that kitchen to be 'free' of reminders right now. I had grandma up to inspire me with her cooking, and wow, major dinners came floating out of that cucina. But right now, it hurts.
I still have a few things that are unsettling, some not. I have the ring that I bought him because he was upset he lost his. It was to make him feel better somehow. In turn, years later, he bought me a ring because the ring he gave me years ago was unfortunately stolen. It was my favorite ring. I keep them both together. Another instance, and for some reason, I still have the paper shopping bag with handles that once carried the wooden box of Dad's ashes. I left it on my nightstand and never touched it again. I remember waiting in the car for Madelene outside of the funeral home after the service was done. She walked out holding a shopping bag. I thought it must have been a gift from someone. She sat down in the car and started to sob as she looked at the bag. "I have Dad." I just looked at her like she was crazy. "What are you talking about?" She lifted the bag up and said, "Dad's coming home with us." Then it hit me, and whether or not I was blocking a major emotional outburst or not, my self-defense mechanism kicked in and I blurted out, "Well now he can't complain about my driving." We both smiled and let out a small chuckle, but the weight of my sadness started to give me a stomach ache.
That's how Dad and my relationship was: laughter & joking around. We never drifted over into a serious discussion all that much. We were buddies - more like the two class clowns of the family. I'm very much like him in many ways. The last time I saw Dad crack a smile and let out a small laugh was three days before he passed. He was dying and we were waiting for hospice to pick him up. The entire family was gathered around him trying to comfort him every way possible. He then requested everyone to kiss him goodbye. Moments before, after hours of being with him, I had to take a small break into the other room just to breathe. I heard my name being called out. "Deb! Deb! Get in here now! Dad wants a kiss goodbye." My heart went right into my throat and I thought I was going to lose it. How can I say goodbye to someone I have known, loved and lived with for so many years? In my head I kept saying, "But I don't wanna!!! It's not his time yet!" But I had to. I walked into the dimly lit room where everyone was gathered around him. Instantly, my knee jerk reaction was to let out a joke as he side-eyed me. "This is gonna cost you - you know that, right?" He cracked a smile and laughed, without a sound because his voice wasn't too audible. Through all of his pain, I got him to laugh. I kissed him on the forehead and said "I love you," for the very last time. Before leaving his side, I said, "Don't think I'm not gonna pickpocket you." And another chuckle plus a smile came out of him. I had to leave the room because whatever smile I had left quickly turned into sobbing tears.
Every daughter (my sisters) had a different relationship with him. Some were much more closer in terms of the father/daughter intimacy level, where it wasn't uncomfortable for them to hug & kiss him or even hold his hand. For me, my relationship with my dad was more on the lines of being best buds with him, busting his chops and making him laugh, and vise/versa. I'm okay with that. The last year of his life we became closer as we knew what was going on. He said "I love you" all the time to all of us, even held my hand while talking to me. I remember once, I was crying over something ridiculous, and he ran over to me and gave me the biggest hug ever. He kept saying, "Please don't cry my baby, please! I hate to see you sad." I'll never forget that. It made me forget what I was crying about. All I kept thinking was, "Dad's hugging me???" It's one of my best memories, even if that day was a miserable one. He put away his 'tough guy' suit and was brave enough to break that 'strange' barrier we had between us. Memories like that make it so hard to let him go. Some articles I have read say that it's best to try to let your loved ones go, but for me, I feel like it's a way to try and toss them out of your life. It's logical, but it seems so cold. I don't know which is best. So right now, the photos are being put away, the bag that carried my best buddy is tucked away under somewhere safe, and his ring will be put away until I'm ready. I'm also limiting the photos of him on this blog. But it doesn't mean I'm letting go completely.