(My dad died in 2006, but not a day goes by that I don't think of him, talk with him, or laugh with him. I wrote this shortly before his death)
My father is dying. Confined to a wheelchair by a broken hip and the infirmities of Alzheimers, he swings between dementia induced rages and chilling moments of stupor. His body is wearing out, his brain has fled into itself, and none of us can accompany him on this lonely journey he faces. The realization of his death came on a sunny afternoon as I watched him, sitting there half –asleep in his wheelchair, It was not an unexpected knowledge. It was the acceptance that my father is dying. His body, ravaged by Myeloplastic Syndrome and bearing the insult of a fractured hip , and his mind scrambled by Alzheimers - he sits there in silence, eyes searching for something, someone, no one else can see. I look at him and I want to grab his arms, force him to look at me, into me, as the words of Dylan Thomas tumble through me Do not go gentle into that good night, rage rage against the dying of the light. I want this man, this once strong man to rage against dying, to wrestle life back and come home to all of us. And then, his hands flutter, like migrating butterflies, and I realize that he is dying, and I rage for him – not at the dying of the light, but at the cruelty of the manner of his death. This is not the death I wish for him – the emptiness, the inability to reach out to one another and know who we are. . . the loss of his memory feels like the denial of mine. I cannot, no matter how much I wish it, I cannot help him go gentle into that good night. And so we are there, the two of us, he in his wheelchair, quiet, eyes wandering over a landscape only he can see, and me, lightly massaging shoulders wearied from living that is not life, and caressing his head, my fingers memorizing the nuances of his skin, his muscles, his heartbeat. And there, in that quiet afternoon, we come together, father and daughter, as he prepares to go gently into that good night.