It’s very odd the places that grief sneaks up on you. You feel like you’re almost “back to normal” (whatever that is) and then the strangest things will bring that lump in the throat and produce the threat of tears. It’s been nearly two weeks since Dad passed away, and, all things considered, we are moving forward pretty well. But tonight in the grocery store, I passed the aisle with instant oatmeal. Immediately I scanned the boxes, looking for Dad’s favorite flavor. And I caught myself realizing that wasn’t necessary anymore.
I have pictures of him on my cell phone, but I can’t bring myself to look at them, because I know what will happen. Even the music that I played for him in those last couple of days is stuff I can’t listen to right now. I hear a song and suddenly I am looking through Dad’s doorway, I see him curled up in his hospital bed in that soft blue blanket with Tigger on it. I wonder what happened to that blanket? Did it go to the funeral home with him? Nobody seems to remember. I doubt any of us could even handle that blanket without tears.
Those last few months were spent finding foods he liked, trying to encourage him to eat when his appetite disappeared. I see fresh pineapple chunks in the produce section, and I think, Dad’s favorite. I notice new brands of rice pudding, and peanut butter crackers (which were a staple in his diet for a long time). I never really bought those foods for anybody else. He went through bouts with no appetite, where it was all we could do to get him to eat one meal a day. My sister or my cousin would make some of his favorite meals and he’d eat a bite or two and turn away, saying that was all he could eat. I’ve read that nausea and vomiting and appetite issues are common with dialysis patients, due to changing body chemistry. And then when he began choking on food, having trouble with swallowing, everything had to be soft, pureed, and easy to go down. Once I brought over some Reese cups and left them in the little fridge in the garage because it was a hot day. I was so tickled to find out he’d discovered them and had eaten both of them.
I loved finding things that made him happy. Taking him for drives back to Snowville where he grew up, watching thunderstorms and rainbows and clouds together. He loved the changing seasons and watching the skies, and he said he loved the changing colors of autumn leaves. Funny how this autumn has been so dull, with few trees showing bright colors. I thought maybe it was just me feeling that way because I was heartsick about him leaving us. But others have confirmed that this has been a very weird autumn. Dad suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and when winter came with less sunlight and shorter days, it gave him the blues. So maybe he wanted to go before that happened again. I know he just wanted to go to sleep and be done with it all, he was so tired and feeling very old.