The tide is ebbing. I had hoped my father would live to see another spring and summer. To enjoy his final pontoon boat rides on the river. To see the trees bud out and watch the deer sneak surreptitiously into the yard under the cover of darkness. But the pull of the moon is strong and the tide is receding a bit more each day.
My heart aches with each little thing he can no longer do. He says he is suffering from “Daddy Syndrome” – he’s taken care of his children for more than 62 years and suddenly we are taking care of him. This role reversal has been more painful for him than any of his health issues.
I was in Atlanta last week, packing up stuff that I had stored there for the past few years and hauling it back up to my Dad’s house in Illinois. The trip reminded me of an earlier visit to Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, which was created for the 1996 Summer Olympics. The centerpiece of the park is the Fountain of Rings – five intertwining Olympic rings embedded into the pavement, through which waters spout in syncopation with broadcast music.
Tears welled up when I watched video footage of the fountain show I’d taken a few years ago. Columns of water waters danced like sprites, gushed abundantly, shot upwards as if propelled by powerful canons, and disappeared back into their wells. How like life. Memories of my Mom and Dad flooded in, of their ups and downs, joys and heartaches, struggles and rewards. Of the loving times we shared, the fights, the reconciliations, and the better understanding of them that evolved as I grew into an adult.
Mom passed in 2002, but as hard as that was, I realize I never would have known Dad if she hadn’t left us first. Now I am facing the imminent loss of my father. Dad has been declining over the past 15 months and it has been a tremendous blessing that my lifestyle allowed me to move back in with him and help with his care. A few nights ago he fell and broke his hip. The doctors said he needed a hip replacement, but he is not strong enough for major surgery. Dad has elected to turn down the surgery and stop all other treatment.
His life over the past year has been one of doctors appointments, hospital stays, blood transfusions, pills, pills, and more pills. But it has also been intermingled with bits of joy: the birth of his first great grandson, our family gatherings over the holidays, sharing stories with me about Mom and his service during World War 2. Over the past few weeks, however, suffering has begun to outweigh joy. My sisters and I understand and support his decision, but already I ache to think of life without him. Tick, tock, the waters rush in to the shore. Tick, tock, the waters recede, falling further back with each passing day. Ebb tide is upon us.
Update: Just a few hours before this article was scheduled to be published, Dad passed away, peacefully, in his sleep. I will be forever grateful that he suffered for a very short time, and that we were able to bring him home from the hospital at the end, as his enduring wish was to die at home rather than in the hospital. His house, which normally blares with a TV turned up to full volume, is silent and empty. I’m a bit lost at the moment but am clinging to the memories we created over the past 15 months, which I will carry with me forever.
Read other stories about my Dad:
Home for the Holidays
My Dad, My Car, A Grocery Store, and Winter Driving in a Snowstorm
Happy Father’s Day, Dad
Mouse 1; Dad 0
Mouse 2; Dad Zip
I Love My Dad
35 thoughts on “The Ebb and Flow of Life”
Hi Barbara, I’ve just found your blog for the first time and read this about the loss of your father. You have my deepest sympathy – I lost my sweet dad three years ago this month, and it makes me cry just to type the words. I miss him so much and I see him in everything. I wish you peace as you move forward in your life.
I’m sorry I’m so late on this, but I wanted to let you know how sorry I am about your dad. He was so lucky to have you with him over the past 15 months, and I’m glad you were able to spend that time with him. Sending you hugs from Berlin!
“Those whom we have loved and lost are no longer where they are but wherever we are”
Sincerest condolences to you and your family Barbara
I’ve been reading your blog for a while. I think you were very courageous to leave your job and go travelling to fulfil your life. And coming home for your dad was sweet. My condolences to you and family.
Thank you so much Irene. It is a difficult time, but time heals all wounds.
I am so sorry for your loss. My prayers will be with you to only remember and dream of the good times you shared with your Dad.
Thanks so much Joy. I am quite sure that the good time will stay with me and any bad times will fade away over time. I very much appreciate your condolences.
So sorry to hear about your Dad. It doesn’t seem to matter how old you are but losing them is like having your heart ripped out. Somehow being the independent adult seems to go by the wayside. My thoughts with you to hope your memories are sweet and your healing is filled with those memories and not too much pain.
Thank you so much Erika. You’re right; even though Dad was 89 and terminally ill, I just wasn’t prepared for it, but the condolences I’ve received from around the world are very comforting.
Barb, My condolences to you and your family. I am glad you all have each other at a time like this. It is important to celebrate your father and the wonderful gifts he gave this world – you and all of your family members.
Stay well you are in my thoughts and prayers,
Thank you DeeDee. There are sad moments, of course, but we are all trying to stay in the celebration mode, as my dad lived a wonderfully long, active, and productive 89 years. Appreciate your prayers a great deal.
Sending good wishes your way!
Thanks Corinne – very much appreciated.
I am so sorry for your pain and loss. Your writing is so honest and emotional this tribute to your father is sad but beautiful. Your understanding of the ebb and flow of life will serve to help you in the days ahead.
Hi Julia: Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you saw sadness and beauty in my words, because that is exactly how I felt. Much love to you.
This is a wonderful tribute. You shared great understanding and pain with us. Life aches for all of us and the transient nature of things tells us there is another purpose for us to choose for our lives. So sorry for your loss.
Thank you Jackie: Dad’s passing did make me feel so intensely the fragility of life, and the tenuous nature of skin, blood, and bones. I will always be grateful for this time with him.
So sorry to hear about your dad’s passing, Barbara, but I feel more for you than for him. As you may know, my dad passed away on December 27 after a long, slow, steady decline that included more falls, broken bones, hospital visits and roller coaster emotions than I care to remember. I’m guessing that, for him (and possibly for your dad), death came as a welcome respite from the fight to survive. It doesn’t make it any easier on those of us left behind, but “It’s for the best” gives me some comfort. Sending you, Nancy and the rest of your family our love and thoughts of peace and healing. You have my empathy, and my condolences.
Thanks so much Bret. In the end, Dad made the decision to refuse any more treatment, and a mercifully short time after that he passed on. For me it was too quick, but it was the very best thing for him.
My deepest condolences to you and your family at this most difficult time. I learned, after losing my Dad 16 years ago, that the pain never really goes away. But time does help. You may not believe that right now but it truly does help. I’ll pray for peace and healing for you and all who loved your father.
Hi Nancy: Having lost my Mom in 2002, I know that pain lessens over time, but as you say, it really never goes away. Thanks so much for your prayers.
A beautiful tribute to both your parents!! Feeling and sharing your pain! Love you.
Thank you Kay. I would give anything to have them back, but I know they are both in a better place, having earned their reward. Love you too!
As always, I saw your post and immediately opened it looking forward, as I always do, to see this worlds beauty as seen through your eyes. I was not disappointed as I read about the ebb and flow of your life with our friend and neighbor, Bill. I was moved and, from 2100 miles away, wanted so much to hug you but California, where our grandson lives, unfortunately is not contiguous with the KKK river.
Di and I walked the Ventura beach and upon return to the rental unit I urged Di to peruse your ebb and flow. She opened our e mails only to find that Bill had passed. We are so very sad, for humankind has lost a great man and disappointed that we cannot physically be there to celebrate his life with you. Please know that Di and I are praying that you and family have the strength to get through the upcoming ‘flow’ and we take solace that Bill loved you all and now has rejoined his bride in a better place.
God bless, Barb, and thank you for all you sacrificed for your dad and our neighbor and friend.
Love, Kevin and Di
Thanks so much Kevin and Di. The house is so empty – and quiet. Funny how I complained about the TV being at top volume but the moment it was gone, I felt so alone. I very much appreciate everything you did for Dad over the past couple of years. I hope you know how much he thought of you and how delighted he was to see you every time you stopped by. Sending you lots of love.
I feel the pain in your heart, and mine aches for you.
With great love!
Much love back, Vonnie. It helps a great deal to know that my dearest friends are sending love and healing thoughts. xoxo
Beautiful analogy, Barbara. Thinking of you and your family- hopefully after the ebb, the flow will come back in quickly, bringing its own joy.
Thank you Sarah. I’m sure it will get easier, with time. Just trying to remember all the good times right now.
So sorry to hear about your father’s decline, thoughts are with you and the family
Thanks so much Heather. It’s very much appreciated.
Sending love, good thoughts, strength.
Thanks Jessie. Feeling a little lost, but good to know all my friends are sending positive energy to buoy me up during this sad time.
Beautiful commentary, Barbara…..you’re a wonderful writer. Thank you for sharing your intimate journey.
Thank you Paula. It’s going to take time to get over the loss of my father, but I’m very glad he didn’t suffer.