For those of you have haven’t been following along, Danny has been on hospice since about last July. He’s not necessarily dying any time soon, although we have been told twice that it’s imminent. (It wasn’t.)
I see him pretty much every day. I can’t begin to explain – I don’t think I even fathom – just how intense, wearying, challenging, painful, and multilayered this is. But for that matter, I don’t think I can explain – or even fathom – what a gift it also is. We’ve had conversations I never thought we’d have. He’s said things to me that I never thought I’d hear. Things like “I love you very very much,” and “You and your brother are the best things that ever happened to me.” Seriously, I call my high school friends to tell them that he’s said this, and they say, “Danny??!!!! Really???!!!!”
I see him pretty much every day because I can’t stand the thought of him all alone. Nursing homes are depressing. Trust me if you don’t know that. No matter what the history that Danny and I have, the thought of him all alone, no one to really talk with, no one to see the person still there within his broken, declining body, breaks my heart.
For that matter, it’s heartbreaking in a slew of ways. As I often say, “heartbreaking in a new way every day.”
The other day was a new level, or version, of heartbreaking.
I was feeding him his coffee ice cream. I think he subsists on the daily pint of coffee ice cream I feed him. Out of nowhere, I asked him if he remembered and enjoyed feeding me, when I was little. “Oh yes,” he replied, “it was fun because you were demonstrative.”
I told him that I am still demonstrative, and then, I don’t know why, I asked him if he was sad when he and my mom split up.
He started to cry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry.
“I was miserable,” he said. “I remember you and Robbie sitting in the back seat of the car as Diana drove the three of you away. You were my life…”
Now, it may seem obvious that he would think, feel, and say this, but that’s not the Danny I knew. The Danny I knew either couldn’t/wouldn’t express outright affection to his kids, or he’d, late at night while drunk, say over and over that he loved us but that didn’t mean anything because that was his job. What was important was that he liked us, and he did.
Which may seem like a nice thing – even a loving thing – to say, but I promise you, that never sunk in and I never knew I mattered to Danny or how much he loved us.
I held his gnarled, clenched hand as he cried. I wiped the tears from his eyes and face. He told me how much he liked when I wiped the tears from his eyes and his face. I told him I was sorry that I asked a question that made him cry, and he told me he was glad to remember it and feel it.
So. Not. My. Danny.
I have never seen him cry before. I may never see him cry again. I’m certain I don’t fully fathom how hard now is for me – on so, so, so, so many levels – and I’m certain I don’t fully fathom how healing it is for me…or for him.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!