We've been picking out hymns and suits to wear at the visitation and crematory urns for the ashes and cemetery plots with a good view.
My dad passed away at 1 PM on Father's Day.
He'd been in excruciating pain, which progressed as the week went on. By Thursday night we had to up the morphine dose so that he slept all the time, but at least he wasn't writhing in pain. Metastasized bone cancer is an ugly, ugly thing.
On Friday, I spent the day with him. I sat in the comfy chair in his room and read him my Managing Strategic Innovation prep work and case study. I guess I'm assuming it was the morphine that kept him sleeping, but we'll never really know.
On Saturday, my mom and I played scrabble by his bed most of the day. There were some rousing plays, especially since she refused to let me play 'squab' and 'nori' because these were not familiar words to her and we didn't have an official scrabble dictionary handy. I called her a dirty cheater, but then apologized because I knew Dad could hear me and he doesn't like it when we fight over games. My brother arrived in the late afternoon with my nephews, and then I went home to play Monopoly with the boys while Bob watched Hunt for Red October or some insipid Saturday TV with Dad.
On Sunday, Bob went down in the morning and the boys and Mom and I joined him around 1130. We wished Dad a happy Father's Day. I read him an email I'd gotten from my aunt, we kissed him goodbye and told him we'd be back after lunch. He smiled. We were going to Phelps Park with some Subways. We got a call as we were finishing our sandwiches. The home is only five minutes from the park, but he was gone before we got back.
Decorah is a very small town. I've lived in cities all of my adult life. It has been wholly unexpected how the town has responded to Dad's death. We have received tearful phone calls from friends and family. And from co-workers or Rotary colleagues of my father's. Funeral homes don't ask for down payments here. People meet you in cemeteries and let you walk around picking the perfect plot for your loved one. They help you plan a funeral lunch for 300. Friends from high school send flowers and phone calls. People bring food. We're at six pounds of sloppy joes and counting, plus meats and cheeses and crackers and pies and coffee cakes and muffins and all manner of things.
My dad's obituary is here. In a town like this, people will read it and will notice that I am single. A few will comment on the fact that I'm over 40 and single. Some will assume this is sad for me, being alone at a time like this. They're wrong. I am not alone. I have gotten numerous messages of support here, from people who only know me from this space and from people who know what I look like when I sleep. I'm getting emails from friends around the country. Around the world. Who love me and are worried and are thinking of me and my family. I have friends travelling here to see me and give me a shoulder, both before my dad died and now for the funeral. I have people sending tributes and memorials and flowers. My friend Timmy, who is in Spain on vacation, sent a gourmet gift basket via FedEx. (Urban homosexuals with small town roots have excellent social skills AND excellent taste.) I am surrounded by a close knit chosen family AND a close knit biological one, as well. That is a blessing that I hadn't fully appreciated until now.
I will miss my father immensely. He was a kind, caring man of integrity. He loved me unconditionally. He never asked me to be anything other than who I chose to be, even though he might have chosen something else sometimes. He was opinionated. He was smart. He could be grumpy and a bit gruff, and when he told stories they were sometimes horrifically long-winded and a bit dull. He was a Republican. He adored my friends and knew they were taking care of me. He was incredibly proud of me and my brother, and believed we were the best kids a guy could ever have. He was barrel-chested and tall and had a goofy smile that only came out for special occasions. He loved my mother...adored her, actually, and I was almost an adult before I realised that other people's parents fought. My sister-in-law says that my dad is the reason that my brother is such a good father. He loved bridges. He loved to eat, especially fatty and sugary foods that were forbidden by his diabetes. He loved his green leather recliner and watching birds out the window of their TV room. He didn't want to die until he knew that we were going to be fine, and I think he waited until he was sure of that.
I'm pretty damn lucky.
I really loved my dad. And I always will.