His frail and fragile body convulsed visibly in unison with his quiet sobs, underneath the bed sheets, as I grabbed what I knew was his foot and gave it a paltry squeeze. I stood at the foot of the bed, in what could be categorized as a state of shock, in hindsight. The darkness of the dawn cast discernible shadows across the stark, white walls.
I gently squeezed his foot once more, “Goodbye, Dad. I love you.”
I had arrived in Centralia, Illinois two nights prior just for that particular reason – to say goodbye to my dad because the marvels of medicine had accurately predicted that his last day was nearing. However, this was not spoken of during my short day and a half trip spent with him. Instead, we spent it talking, laughing, shooting the shit, if you will and watching one of his favorite things – KU basketball. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks lost the game but what a joy to be a part of one of his favorite things only days before he passed.
In the two years since my dad had been diagnosed with stage four metastatic lung cancer and a very large brain tumor upon his cerebellum, the area of the brain that coordinates one’s motor skills, it had never become less difficult to see him cry. In fact, I don’t recall ever witnessing my dad cry until April of 2009, when I returned to Kansas City to see him through his taxing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Furthermore, my dad was just never one to exhibit much emotion at all, except for anger and his occasional ubiquitous humor that more often than not was in the company of others beyond his immediate family. He knew how to make a crowd laugh – that was for sure. I loved seeing that side of him and I still savor some of those distinctively joyful moments. I have a hunch that’s what my mother initially fell in love with.
My dad and I were never very close. I always wanted to be “daddy’s little girl” but this, unfortunately, never came close to fruition. To say the least, for now, I consistently found myself seeking his approval and frequently walking on eggshells around him, growing up. Communication was never his strong suit but on that chilly, early morning in late March of 2011, he didn’t have to utter a single word. His actions spoke loud and clear. If my dad actually said any words, they were not audible as his weeping muffled them. We both knew that at that precise instant, as he laid there in his bed, deliberately shielding his tear-soiled face from mine, my hand on his foot, was the last time we would ever see or touch each other again.