The sun is beginning to rise following the third night of my vigil. The days spent in my father’s Hospice room with family and friends are precious. But it is the nights I spend alone with him that I find to be the most precious gift. Caring for him, protecting him, comforting him, like he did for me in so many ways over the past 49 years.
I love to hold his hand and tell him stories. Paint him pictures of the time we spent together. The weekends we spent sailing on the Gulf. His passionate instruction on how to point into the wind just right for the optimal speed, the bow slicing through the water. When he corrected me, and I’d turn the tiller to head into or off the wind, I often heard, “You’re over-correcting!” That’s a lesson I never got quite right, in many aspects of my life. But I vow to keep trying. I spoke to him of Galveston, Ontario, each of his Black Labs, in turn: Rebel, his dog we got in North Carolina. (Although my brother claims Rebel was his dog because he waited to see him before he passed.) Then came Nugget, named by my mother with the idea that he was black gold. Nugget loved to dive to the bottom of the deep end of the pool to fetch his conch shell. And then he’d bark relentlessly until you threw it again. The game could go on for hours, interrupting my sunbathing when he’d jump in with a splash, and then shake the water off on me when he got out. It was a game, and I know he did it on purpose. Last was Lacy, Dad’s first female, and his favorite. He’d lay on the floor with her and cuddle, saying, “Who’s Daddy’s little girl?” When she got old and arthritic, he had an acupuncturist come to the house once a week and treat her. His heart broke when she passed a few years back. I knew Dad needed another pet, so I arranged a cat adoption for him from a Houston rescue organization as a Christmas gift. The cat he chose (and he was by then a young cat, not a kitten) was a Snowshoe my mother named Spotty, although I always insisted his name was Spot. Spot is a cat’s cat; strong and powerful (and, yes, a wee bit chubby). He likes to throw his toy mouse into the air and catch it, and then wrestle with it while rolling around on the floor. Like my dad, that cat oozes character. He’s got more character than any cat of mine. (But they are better cuddlers.)
I also tell Dad how much I love him, how much I’ve always loved him, how I’ll always be his little girl. His baby. His Puddle Duck. I tell him, between sobs, how much I’ll miss him. I promise to take good care of my mother (a job I haven’t done too well in the past) and Spotty. (Yes, I’ll call him Spotty for my mother.)
I feel lucky. This time with my father is the most precious gift. There is no where else in the world I want to be right now. I won’t leave. I’m staying beside him until he’s ready to go.
There was a shift last night. I feel he’s preparing to let go. My mother’s greatest task today, she knows, is to tell him it’s okay, she’ll be okay, he can let go.