June 11, 2008

A tough but rewarding conversation

Today I geared myself up for the tough talk with my dad -- telling him that I loved him, that I was worried about him, and that I wanted to visit because I was concerned that he was dying.

I couldn't have this talk yesterday, because I was afraid that if I brought up this subject, he'd turn away, and because yesterday he was still mostly uncommunicative. But from the moment we arrived today, Dad was alert, conversative, and lively. He was making jokes, blowing raspberries (or Bronx cheers, as we call them in our Bronx-origin family). So I figured once we were alone, this was the best opportunity to speak my mind.

"Dad," I said, "I want to talk to you." I told him that I had come to see him because I was worried that he was dying and I wanted to tell him how much I loved him. He told me he didn't feel like he was dying, and I agreed that it didn't appear he would die today. (Indeed, he was much improved over yesterday.)

I asked him what he was thinking, what kind of funeral and other arrangements he wanted. He told me to go for the whole thing, shiva etc. I said that's what I wanted to do. He asked why I was crying and I told him it made me sad to think about this. He said, "We all have to go sometime." I agreed and said that it was okay to die after living a long full life, accomplishing many things and being surrounded by those who love you.

Then we did the crossword puzzle. It's hard to sustain that high an emotional pitch.

Before I left, Dad told me he was glad we had such a good talk. He may not be ready to die, but I am glad that we talked about what was coming. If I can't be there at the end, whenever it comes, at least I know we have done the work we needed to do -- together.

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