It is fitting that I am remembering my Dad today on September 9th. It is his birthday, though he is no longer here in physical form. He passed away almost twelve years ago now. My relationship with my Dad was mixed, loving at times and quite difficult others. I know in my Heart that he was always doing the best that he could. Despite the difficulties, he was often, if not always at my soccer games. He took a keen interest in my education. I remember when fiber optics was all the rage, he took me into New York city to an exhibit at the museum of science on telecommunications. Trips to NYC were rare so it felt pretty cool, though I am not sure I appreciated it fully at the time. He had a passion for science and was eager to share it with me. Beyond soccer and science, he had a real quirkiness about him, likely where I get much of mine.
Fast forward to 2005. He was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma five days after the birth of my daughter, Sophia. He passed away eighteen months later, just a month prior to the birth of my second daughter, Sonia. Birth and death were very much alive for my family, all at once. The first year of Sophia’s life I traveled most months between Austin and Houston, so that I could be at home at least a week or two, out of every month. I often tell myself that I didn’t fully process my Dad’s passing because I was either postpartum or just about to deliver my second. As I look back now, I realize that the processing was happening across those last eighteen months of his life. Watching cancer move through him was preparing my whole family for the final passing. In his later months, he was quite weak. He no longer looked the way we had known him to look. His spirit was alive, but his physical state was fragile. For a man who could have a fierce temper, it was hard to see him in this way. Those eighteen months, I grieved. I grieved for him not being able to see his grandchildren grow up. I grieved for him not being able to enjoy retirement in the way that he could have. I grieved for all the moments I wish I had had with my Dad, and for those sweet moments that I did have. I grieved, realizing that he had always done the best that he was able to do as a father.
I remember in the last months of his life, my sister had an unfortunate injury to her ankle, leaving her to have urgent surgery and then recuperating at home for almost two months. During this time, I went to Houston to be with them. It was a complete paradox of fortune and misfortune. My Dad was entering his last stages of life and my sister was recovering from a severe injury. I was able to be at home with all of them – my Mom, Sophia, Sonia in utero, my Dad and my sister. Even during that time, as weak as my Dad was, I could feel his concern and care for my sister’s recovery. He would occasionally prompt my then fourteenth month old to go into my sister’s room to shower her with kisses in the way only a fourteenth month old could. After a few weeks I returned home to Austin, only to receive a call a week later that it was time. My Dad called me saying, “Sheila beta, there is not much time now”. My heart sank. I still remember it so vividly.
The next day, I was back in Houston with Sophia and Herb. Three days later he passed away at home surrounded by his family. Those last three days are still a blur to me, and perhaps that is why I feel that I didn’t grieve fully. Everything from that point onward also feels cloudy, as we returned home to Austin with my mom, and I delivered my dear Sonia a little more than a month later.
Today, on September 9th, 2018, it is raining. We have the screen doors open. I can hear the pitter patter of the rain, and feel the humidity on my skin. There is an achiness in my heart, my throat feels caught as if in mid-sentence, my abdomen tender.
It feels like the breath and the rain are washing over me.
Happy birthday to my dear Dad.