This post originally appeared on Medium on July 18, 2019.
I am holding my father’s hand. It is so odd to write those six words because I am holding the hand of a stranger. It is odd to be here, in hospice, concerned for his well-being, pain levels and comfort. It is odd to have compassion, and even more surprisingly, to be experiencing a range of emotions for someone I do not know.
My parents divorced when I was two years old. The last childhood memory I have of my father is from grade school — going to his house to get $5 for a new lunchbox. Then, over 30 years later, I had lunch with him — wanting an apology, hopeful for a new beginning and if not, at least closure. I received neither. And now, almost a decade later, here we are.
The past 24 hrs have been a blur of signing consents, making travel arrangements and having a long overdue conversation with my daughter. It’s all… something. I never thought I’d be here. (Spending his years with regret and remorse was supposed to be his punishment.) But, forgiveness.
Everything is odd and strange and surreal but I’m here. And it’s more sweet than bitter. It’s the last remnants of a healing that I didn’t know I needed. Speaking to the hospice staff and seeing their smiles, “We’re glad you’re here. He’s been asking, ‘When is my daughter arriving? She said she’s coming!’” Waiting for my own daughter to get home from school so we can video chat because she “has to meet her other grandpa.” So many moments of generational healing — of disclosing secrets and disappointment, of forgiveness and love.
Sharing this because I know my story is not unique. And because what I know having been married and divorced is that marriage and divorce are hard. What I know as a mother is that parenting is hard. What I know is that most people try — whatever that means for them — and often their efforts fall nowhere close to the expectations we have for them.
And so. I am here. In hospice. Holding the hand of my 80-year old father for the first time. I am here in this odd, sweet, sad space. And I am thankful. Taking it moment by moment. (Written on May 30, 2019. My father passed away on June 24, 2019.)