I've never been a person that makes New Year's resolutions. It's not that I don't think you should. It's just that I never thought I could stick to them and didn't want to add anything to my life that had the possibility of making me feel guilty. But, this year I will make one. My resolution for this year is to make at least one entry in this journal for each month of 2005. Because I'm now 44 years old, I'm wise enough to know that avoiding the guilt associated with not keeping a resolution is as easy as simply doing what you have told yourself you would do.
It's been very difficult for me to come back to writing in this journal. When I last wrote, my father was very ill. I had started writing an entry that was an update on how he was doing and how Mom and I were dealing with seeing him so sick and dealing with the ups and downs of an illness like that. Before I could post the entry, my father got much worse.
My sister Barb, her husband James and their two children had come in for the weekend so that Barb could say good-bye in case anything happened. Early on Monday morning, the 18th of October, Mom and I got a phone call from the doctors. They didn't think that Dad would make it through the day. Barb and her family had planned to leave that morning and instead, Barb met us at the hospital. My brother Mike drove that morning from Chicago and my sister Linda flew in from Denver.
That afternoon, with the entire family surrounding his bed, my father passed away. I know that it was the best thing for him, that he let go and that we were able to tell him that it was okay to go. But, to watch a parent slip away from life is something so difficult that I can't even put it into words. And as I'm typing this, the tears that I thought had stopped are flowing again.
In the five weeks that Mom and I had sat by Dad's bed in the hospital, we never felt that Dad recognized me and very rarely did we think that he recognized Mom. But on that afternoon of the 18th, his eyes opened wider than they had in weeks and the whole family felt that he was aware that we were all there with him.
Linda had put a song on the CD player - Dr. Hook's Cover of the Rolling Stone. Mom was a little uncomfortable playing this type of music as Dad was dying and she felt that it could have been perceived as inappropriate by the Catholic nun standing there with us, but we tried to sing along anyway because Dad seemed to enjoy it. Besides, it was important to Linda and we all felt that being able to do that would help her to deal with what was happening.
During the next week, as we went through the process of making arrangements for Dad's funeral and burial, we did our best to enjoy our time together. We laughed together and cried together. Here is a picture that was taken of us at the luncheon after Dad's funeral.
Herbert was able to fly in and I was grateful for his support. One of the blessings that came out of that week was that we were able to re-connect with relatives and friends that we had lost contact with over the years. I hope that we are able to maintain those renewed relationships.
Most surprising of all was that two of Dad's cousins from Pennsylvania, Doris and Ann, flew in with Doris's daughter Audrey. It had been so long since I had seen them that I don't have any mental images of them other than the recent ones. I only remember hearing about them over the years. Mom and I spent a great deal of time talking and laughing with them on Mom's porch the evening after Dad's funeral. Here is a photo of me with Doris and Ann...
Before Dad passed away, Mom and I had made plans to start doing some work on their house. She and Dad hadn't done a lot to it in the twenty-some years that they had lived there. We decided to stick with the plan and I stayed for another five weeks. My son Nick had moved to Cedar Rapids to live with Mom and go to one of the local colleges. He was a big help in that major project of renovating the entire first floor of Mom's house. Even Herbert used his week with us to install new light fixtures and a medicine cabinet in one of the bathrooms. In five weeks, we remodeled the kitchen, two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a living room and dining room. All the walls and ceilings were painted or wall-papered, all the flooring, toilets, sinks, faucets and countertops were replaced. Tom (TJ), another cousin of Dad's that we had re-connected with, has a remodeling business. We hired him for a lot of the bigger things that needed to be done. Here's a photo of him with his son, as he's working in Mom's garage...
Mike and his family came to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. As we gave them a tour of the house, I thought that it was amazing that we were able to do so much in such a short time.
I came back to Switzerland at the end of November as a very tired woman. But, I couldn't rest because the holiday season had started. Although Herbert and I had decided to try and have a calmer Christmas with less gifts and less stress, I still found myself trying to make it as special as possible.
I believe I have a reputation here of being a bit fanatical about Christmas. I accept this and I know where it comes from. It comes from my Dad. He always loved Christmas and made it such a special time for us when we were children.
As an adult, I think I'm still always trying to re-create that feeling of magic that he had always given us. Needless to say, I cried through most of the days in December. At one point, Herbert told me that he thought I needed to stop listening to Christmas music and I knew that he had a point. I realized that music was a big connection for me to my dad. He loved music and passed that on to all of us. I continued to listen anyway. I knew that regardless of whether or not it was the holiday season, I needed to grieve. After Dad's death, we had been so busy at Mom's that I never let myself think about things. I'm glad that I took my time and allowed the feelings and the sadness to come to the surface. Other than today, as I've been writing this, the sadness has eased and I think about Dad in happy moments.
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