Gracias Papi, 3/9/2012

When I wrote about my mom crossing over in Aug of 2009 circumstances were very different. I was in a holding pattern. I had left Power Tools to have more time with my mom as she had chosen no more treatments for her cancer and just wanted to stay home and await death. Today life has been hitting from angles. A new baby on the way. Death struck here at home in December as Great Grandma Keta crossed over on December 26, 2011. Work has been hectic as the economic strains wear on everyone and people are on edge. The end of 2011 and 2012 have been kicking my ass.

My father began his final battle with cancer in September. We had been through it before, but this time we were going to do it solitos. I went with him to most of his appointments, especially the chemo ones. He had been living out his life, going out with friends, dancing and hanging out with the neighbors. I imagined he was happy and ready to beat this round with cancer again. The chemo didn't effect him much. He would get severe hiccups and not much else. We would go out to eat every week and to special events. For his birthday in October I took him to a work party, a party on a roof top where I DJed and to dinner.

Come Thanksgiving I noticed he started to slow down a little. He got very quiet. He was always quiet, but now even more. I figured it was just with me because I still saw him on the phone chatting away with friends and relatives. In December he said the doctors said all was good but wondered why they wanted two more chemos when all was supposed to be ok. By late January he needed pain medicine but he would say it was only once in great while when the pain would come. By the time we got to February he was declining fast. Not eating and tired he made a lot of excuses. When my aunt spoke to me she told me that he had said he was done, tired and ready to die.

He entered the hospital on the 24th of February. I was in Arizona with 60 students on a bus. I had arranged for my aunt to come be with him since I was leaving town for the weekend. When I got back Sunday night he was in West LA hooked up to an IV that was keeping his blood pressure up for him, keeping him alive. He was alert and chatting. All week the doctors spoke of a gall bladder infection, never anything about the cancer. Western medicine in its linear mode of thinking is so wack. Either way, when my aunt and my dad's best friend both told me that he told them he was ready to go, I knew he wouldn't be leaving that bed.

A parade of people came through telling him to fight, and how he will win, and how they will go out again, and toss some back, and dance, and hang out. I wanted to tell them to say good bye because he made up his mind.

I was angry on one level and sad on another. I was angry for him not being honest with me and telling me how he was feeling and thinking. I was sad because, like with my mom, I was power less they made up their mind to leave. The social worker spoke to me about long term care, maybe it is routine, but I knew he wasn't leaving the hospital.

My favorite uncles Chelo and Manuel, aunts Elsa -the nun, Olvia and Elva, sat with me in the hospital watching my dad, their big brother, fade away. The last three nights I slept over in the hospital, when someone would arrive I would go home to shower and come back. I learned so much from them in those two weeks. In a way I learned more about my family and father than I did my whole life. I promised my daughter that would not be the case with me and her. I want her to know me, all of me, not from others, from me.

The last three days he couldn't communicate. He could hear some but could not respond. He left quietly in peace. Chelo and I were in the basement cafeteria when it happened, I will never forget his face as he put his coffee down after answering his phone.

I haven't been able to go back to work. I barely speak to anyone about it much. I have so much to say but no one to say it to so here I am trying to keep it interesting in text.

There was relief of course. Sadness and pain of course.

One day I went to go pick up my dad's wallet at his house. When I walked in it felt like that dream I wrote about in my blog about my mom passing. Like my parents had moved away and forgot to tell me. I was all alone. My dad said when my mom passed, ahora estamos solitos, as I stood there in the house where I grew up I really felt solito. I hadn't been back there more than five times since my mom passed. I would pick up my father outside or he would come to my place when we would go out. There I was looking at the mirror that watched me grow, the corner in the kitchen where I would bump my head when I ran in the house, the doors I would slam and hide behind, everything about my past looking so distant and close for the last time. I am so afraid of having to go and clean out the place.

My dad was the eldest of 11. He was beat if he was caught with a ball, because as his father told him, he was here to work not play. His grand mother raised him for the most part. He had tenuous relationships with some of his siblings that didn't buy into the elder brother attitude he threw around. He loved going back to his tiny little town every year, despite my and my mom's dismay. He did work his whole life. At 17 he came as a bracero and would go back and forth until he decided to stay in the late 60's. He was a welder, shipyard worker, construction,...physical labor. He would come home with a gash, a bruise, limping, covered in dirt or dust, but he was always ready to play with me. I would jump on his shoulders as he came in the door. He would shower, eat and come and play more. Some days I would beg him not to leave to work or to Mexico by holding on to his leg. He always had to go. He would tell me to study so that I didn't have to use my body for work, so I could use just my mind. He taught me we are all connected to everything on this planet. We all breathe the same air and need water. Everything. From the smallest to the largest. He taught me about 'all my relations.'

We all lose here. We will lose everything and everyone, eventually. Knowing this does not make it easier.


cindylu said...

I'm sorry Gerry. This is a beautiful tribute to your father. I'm sure you made him proud. It's amazing to me how hard our antepasados have worked for us to have easier lives. They worked so hard.

(Also, I'm sorry for taking so long to say anything even though I saw you mention it on FB. Si quieres hablar, I'm here to talk or just read or share some coffee.)

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