Conversations at brunch: Did you hear? Jess's dad died | Part 8
Even when you're prepared, you're never ready.
A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows on the conversations you have at brunch.
This is Part 8 of a series. For a recap, click here.
I have found this particular post one of my hardest to write, and in truth, didn't write it in order, I've had to come back to it. I normally write about things that are funny or frustrating, but this takes me right back there and I have to be in the right emotional space. I'm doing this outside, have cried a few times, and I think will go to the dog beach afterward. Impossible to be sad at the dog beach.
It's somewhere in the autumn of 2021. I had just been fired, had a mental breakdown, and sent a cake, which at the time felt hilarious, but in reality, resulted in my 'friends' from the workplace blocking me on all socials, awkward encounters for my actual friend who was still working there, and worried reactions from my partner and close friends that I seriously had lost it.
Like many people who have ever been made redundant, left a shit job, got let go or have been fired, my mind started to drift into what I should actually be doing. After all, while some of these places I had worked at had been unhinged, I had to concede that I was the common denominator. Maybe I just wasn't meant for the office b*llshit, I didn't have the right personality for it. Maybe I was meant to go back and study to be a psychologist, start a wedding planning business, be a dog groomer. I just knew that there was no way I could go back to corporate any time soon.
I kept myself busy in my silly little garden my partner had made for me to focus on (he's a bit cute), on LAL, and being a carer of sorts to my dad, who had been deteriorating rapidly.
I should note that there were some good things around this period - we had moved into our new home, we celebrated a year of 'marriage' after our Facebook pseudo-wedding, eased restrictions meant the big 'real' wedding was on the cards for round 2.0 that August, and, while I was taking a break from actively applying for roles, a recruiter contacted me.
It was for a contract position as a content writer for a well-known organisation. I didn't think much of it, it would be some cash working from home while I figured out what I actually wanted to do. Funnily enough, it ended up turning permanent eventually.
It was still sort of like Stage Three lockdown, where some things were open, weddings were on, but everyone was still working from home, which suited me just fine. I decided I could only handle a four-day week with all the stress I had, and so set up my silly little makeshift desk in my lounge room .
But by now, Dad's world had gone from bad to worse. While as I previously wrote, he had always (annoyingly) been like the Keith Richards - he spent his youth smoking, drinking partying, wasn't particularly healthy, and yet, had the lowest BMI (why none of the kids got the long thin legs is something I'm still shitty about), loved cooking, gigs, travel, movies. He was simply going to live to 146.
When he had first been diagnosed, he was like, please. Bump in the road, I'll get past this and we'll just get on with it. He had things to do, places to see.
My dad had travelled a little in his 20s, but not much after that, and with his partner Liv, was finally going out and seeing more of the world with her. They were perhaps even going to get married in the Philippines. But the Christmas prior, he was told it was terminal, and it might be months or even weeks. Everyone rallied to get time in with him, not knowing when it might be - tomorrow, next week, the week after. It was emotionally exhausting and terrifying at the same time.
But miraculously, now June, he was still going, even in the midst of the pandemic. Maybe he'd be one of those people who just... lived with it in the background?
But unbeknownst to me at the time, he wasn't 'better.' He tried to shield us, but he was in constant physical pain. He had gotten extremely thin with a large stomach - he really looked like a cancer patient. Staff at his regular cafes (he was very much a creature of habit) got so shocked that some of them cried when they saw the once chatty, loud-mouthed man looking like a sick old cancer patient. His bowels had given way. He'd had a fall and almost broken his shoulder and ribs quite badly, which were taking a long time to heal. He was constantly nauseous and exhausted. He had been trying so hard to hold on, for us, for the wedding Take 2.0, but every waking moment had turned into torture, and I suppose, knowing it was in a way not worth it, that he was going to die any time, that he was not in fact going to pull through, had just become too unbearable.
It was Covid, it was winter, he had no spark or joy or anything to look forward to. He couldn't go anywhere, or do anything. I mean, it was depressing for everyone, let alone having terminal cancer. He was just feeling unbearably sick, waiting to die.
During my second week of my new job from home, he called me, and was very brash. I don't remember the exact wording, but it was something like, "Hi darling. I've decided to do the euthanasia tomorrow, I can't do this anymore, okay? So I love you very much, and this is me saying goodbye."
Um... WHAT THE F*CK?!
I screamed and asked him what the f*ck he was talking about. How could he say this to me? How could he not have me over? What was he DOING?? I started crying and sobbed and begged him to wait for us to come over right away. He sounded a bit agitated, but reluctantly agreed.
I had to call my very new boss crying and explained, and she, (unlike other places) was a normal and caring human being, and was like, GO.
My partner immediately stopped working, we called my sister and sped over to Dad's place.
While you may read what he said and see it as cold and strange, when we got there and my mum was there, I understood a bit more. Dad just couldn't take facing us, disappointing us, or getting us to talk him out of this decision. He was doing it, this was it, let's go, and he knew if he saw us, his heart would break and he may not be able to.
I don't agree with how he was going to handle it, but I understand it.
I'm also glad we didn't listen.
In his apartment, my mum answered the door. I'm a very lucky child of divorce, where my parents are the best of friends, my mum and Dad's partner totally respecting each other. Mum was warm, but reminded us this was not about changing his mind, but simply being with him now.
So, in his dimly lit bedroom in his little apartment, my dad, his partner Liv, my mum, my sister, our partners and Dad's best friend Alex just hung out.
We asked Dad to tell us some of our favourite stories that kept us laughing and saying, "Again! Again!" when we were little, like when he chucked his cadet captain's boots in the river, when he threw a giant party without permission, when he told inappropriate jokes with all the right pauses and one liners. We listened to stories about Dad and Alex at school, about LIv and Dad's travels, and about us as kids.
We each took time to sit with Dad alone, including my partner, who promised Dad he would always look after me, and carry on the Jewish traditions in our home, even though he isn't Jewish himself.
I think Dad couldn't handle too much of the emotional strain of being with me and my sister Em, but we did it anyway. We had last hugs and photos, which I know is somewhat lucky considering some people never get to say goodbye at all.
And then, what felt like seconds later, it was time to go.
I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to say goodbye. I wanted to throw a tantrum and scream and cry and yell and fling myself at him and never leave, ever.
He slowly walked me to the door.
I was teary and looked at him as I turned down the stairs.
"I love you," I said.
"See you on the other side, darling," he replied with a smile.
And he was gone.
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