I had a feeling this day would be arriving sooner than I was comfortable with admitting. And still I kept telling myself there would be more time. Another Christmas to pop in and sit with him for a while. Another Mother’s Day that maybe we’d have brunch together. Another day I could call and just tell him I love him.
But time ran out and now I’m left with this mourning.
My brother called before sunrise to tell me that our dad had passed. Only, he couldn’t actually say it. He was just crying and I didn’t need him to say the thing I knew he couldn’t say. So I said it for him. And for a moment, I felt myself go numb.
My dad had been very sick for a long time. He had been depressed and lonely since losing the love of his life to breast cancer. He hadn’t been the daddy I remembered for many years and we had grown apart.
As I got older, I started feeling like maybe I never knew my dad very well. He was an emotionally-closed man of few words. But somehow I always knew that he loved me. And I loved him. And we loved each other the best way we knew how.
Unfortunately, when I wasn’t making the effort, we went long stretches without seeing each other. The kid in me wanted her daddy to just pick up the phone and call her. The adult in me wanted the kid to get over it and call dad. And I did, once…about a year ago.
He was in the hospital and I was afraid that would be my last chance to talk to him. I asked him if I should visit and he told me he’d call me when he got home — which, of course, he never did. As we talked I asked him about his health and he spun me some bullshit about being ok. I wanted to believe him, but I knew he wasn’t well. Still, I didn’t push. We had a short conversation before we ran out of things to say and began our goodbyes.
“Dad,” I said. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Kimberlee.”
And those were the last words we said to each other.
The next time I saw him, he was in the hospital again. This time in a diabetic coma and even more frail than I remembered. I almost didn’t recognize him. I sat next to his bed wishing I knew more about his condition…hoping he’d wake up and I would have one more chance to talk to him.
That was three weeks ago and today I got the call I had been expecting — and dreading. And while I wish I had been brave enough to visit him in recent years, I am so grateful that the last thing we said to each other was “I love you.”
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