Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Best Friend

I've been sitting here this entire weekend with a heavy heart and mixed emotions. I've had highs (great bike ride) and lows (skunks) and settled most of the weekend somewhere in the middle. 5 years ago this weekend I said good-bye to my mentor, my hero, my best friend. I remember the weekend like it was yesterday. And the pain of missing him is still real.

It was Easter weekend 2003. Good Friday I stopped at talked to him before heading the rest of the way to his apartment. We had the girls with us and Midnight came in to say hi to her Grandpa. It should've been a good weekend. The next few weeks we were going to be moving him into an assisted living house Tim discovered that could care for his oxygen needs much better than a nursing home - a place he was way to young to be at. Dad would've been 61 this past December.

The next morning I got a call from Tim. Dad's been taken to the Emergency Room and he's struggling with breathing. I head out right away and find that he's been placed into the ICU. He's still awake but can't talk much from the oxygen tubes. Tim had asked me to help fill out paperwork and I remember thinking this was just routine and in another couple days dad would be good and we'd be teasing him and laughing about something. He always had the humor even when we didn't. I remember holding his hand and him holding mine back tighter than normal but he always pulls through. That last look we gave each other as I walked out of the room was one I will never forget.

I left to go get his meds at the apartment and on the way back I get another call. It's not good and I need to return at once. I get there and the doctors tell us he's shutting down and now it's just a matter of time. We go through the calls needed. What do the doctors in Madison say? There's always something we can do, always. To offset his body poisoning itself from carbon dioxide there was a process but his body would never recover from the harshness, not at this stage. The doctor tells us it could be hours, could be days, we don't know.

It's Easter weekend and this Saturday is busy with mass. We ask my dad's priest to stop and Holly makes a call for theirs. It's hard. It's a moment we all know would happen one day but not like this. Not a sudden something. We watched the progress before the transplant, this "just" happened and this our Dad, things don't just happen. He comes back from everything. In his early 20's he was electrocuted. For as long as I can remember he lived with Sarcodosis which transitioned into a Lung Transplant. Dad just always makes it through.

That night we decided the family should all go and try to get some sleep. I just couldn't leave and insisted on staying there with him and if needed, I would take a break the next day. The night was long. I had some of the most personal conversations with my best friend that night yet there is just nothing that prepares for a good-bye. I think a part of me just believed, or maybe needed to believe, that he was going to wake up and make the doctors rethink things yet once again. Things were up and down all night. The nurses, god bless their hearts, tried to make things as easy as possible but I just wanted to talk to him. To hear one more of the infamous stories he shared over the years that just never, ever got old, no matter how many times he told them to me.

Come morning the numbers were dropping. Having spent years watching O2 levels and such Tim and I knew what they meant. It wasn't going to be days. I had been there all night and went to get some air. I remember sitting outside and this raindrop hits my arm and it had to be the biggest drop I've ever felt. People talk about signs and I knew what that one meant. I went back inside and knew what was happening. That Easter morning we were all there and then he was gone. That by far has to be the heaviest my heart has ever felt and the most numb I've ever been in my life. By afternoon with calls being made and arrangements started, the numbness just settled in.

I can't really put into words the relationship I had with my dad. He was my best friend. He was who I looked up to. He was that person who believed in me and sitting here tonight I wonder what he thinks of things or what he would say with all the things that have happened in the last 5 years, especially the last two. I wonder of the ones we've said good-bye to since are somehow there with him. I went through the next hardest moment in my life with out him there being my best friend to talk to. He kept me grounded. He made me look at both sides of things, never just one. I know I had disappointing moments but he rarely judged, at least not for long. He took things as they came and just did what he could to make them work.

Dad was a fighter like no other. My younger brother is handicapped and the two of them kept each other going after I left for school. That weekend, he didn't have to worry. Jay was going to be moving in with my Mom while we moved dad out of the apartment. Did he give up after all that fighting? I don't think so. I think he realized it was okay that he didn't have to fight so hard anymore. It was okay for him to take that breath.

I miss him everyday. Some days way more than others. But on those days that it hurts the most - I remember the friends that were by my side and are here now. I had friends and co-workers who drove hours to attend the funeral and try to offer a shoulder. My best friends held my hand understanding the numbness and how just silence and that hug was okay. I had family that weren't always as non judgemental feeling the same pains and there we all were, there for each other. We got through it and we somehow found our ways to say good-bye, each in our own ways.

Last night I spent over an hour talking to my older brother on the phone. We don't always talk often but then nights like last night, we just do. As much as I want to pick up the phone to talk to Tim tonight, I'm not sure the tears would stop flowing hearing his voice. I miss him too but luckily it's just geography so I can pick up the phone or drop an email. My mom and I are closer than we were while I was growing up. We certainly weren't close and even went a couple years with out talking back then. Now, she's my mom and I look forward to getting home when I can.

What's the point of me putting all of this on here tonight? Not really sure. Maybe just for me to help say hello to an old friend I've been missing. Maybe it's to say thank you for those select ones that were and have been and are now here for me when my life turns up side down. But then maybe its just my reminder to myself about just how short life is and how we shouldn't waste it. Dad was my mentor. He was my hero. And above all he was my best friend and always will be.

Kenny Chesney has a song that always reminds me of my best friend and Sheryl Crow also has a song that I hold dear. ...Remember. Love. Laugh. Believe. ...Today.


GG said...

Okay that one should have come with a warning. I am sitting in my office with tears running down my face.

It is friends like you and my husband who have had to face the day that our parents are no longer with us that challenge me to make the most of the time I spend with my parents.

I kind of thought you were in a strange mood yesterday and I couldn't put my finger on it. Now I know. I am always here for you.

P.S. Remember I was the favorite daughter. :)

Julie said...

Nice words, Nikki. My last exchange with my Mom was a wordless hand grasp, so I know whereof you speak. She used to come to me in my dreams a lot soon after she died, it was wonderful. Doesn't happen as much anymore, but I just had one the other night, funny. I have a whole CD of songs I listen to when I want to "go there." Homeless by Loudon Wainwright is a great one, and of course the entire Black Cadillac album by Roseanne Cash, oh and Lyle Lovett's You Were Always There - must listen. We honor them by living our lives, take care. :-)

Nikki said...

Sorry for the tears at work today. I probably should've thrown in a heads up for you before you read it. Being his favorite daughter - with neither you nor him not enjoying that - I know you miss him too.

Huge shout out for neighbor stud Todd tonight. He stopped over with the traps to attempt to capture the skunk(s) we have. Not sure if it's just one going from Miss Heather's front porch, to my shed, to Todd's back yard but we're hopefully going to capture the little beast.

Thankfully all we have to do is set the traps and if it gets in one, we get to call Todd back. He's only had like a day off in the last month. I know he enjoys what he does but that sucks way more than my hours.

Nikki said...

Hi Julie! We must've both been writing about the same time as I saw yours after mine was posted. Songs tend to bring back a lot of good memories and you have some great ones listed there.

Thanks for your email on the bike stuff too! I am still sorting out many things but those are great notes to keep in mind!!