Cupboards in my brain
My father died after only a few days on hospice care. He finally relented and moved into the hospital bed that hospice brought over to his home in the early morning hours of the day he died.
It took us most of the day to get him comfortable in the bed with help from pain and anxiety medications. But finally he was resting in a deep sleep while his kids sat around the bed, talking about the funny things our dad did. His grandchildren who were able to stop by said their goodbyes, while other family and friends called to pay their respects. The great-grandkids just played around his bed without any idea about what was really going on. In an odd way — once my dad got comfortable — it wasn’t so bad sitting there with him because we were all together.
There were also lots of tears during that long afternoon. But no tears from me on this last day of my father’s life. I cried once about a week before he became very weak. It was cocktail time and I asked my dad if he would listen as I read something I had written. The piece that I wanted to post on my blog was called “Sidewalks” about him and my husband Barry.
I started to read the first line and burst into tears. I had to go pour myself a glass a wine before I could start again. My dad was having his bourbon. I read the post to him, crying as I read on. After I finished, my dad looked up at me and said, “I don’t know how you became such a good writer.” Then his eyes went back to his beloved basketball game on television. It was March Madness after all, and not another word was said about the piece I had written. I was just fine with that.
Just like my dad
I realized then that I am just like my dad. In both our brains, we have many cupboards with locks on them. My dad put his feelings about this intimate and loving post that I had written into a cupboard in his brain to be opened at a later time. Maybe he would let himself think about it late at night when he couldn’t sleep as he worried about dying. But maybe his worries about dying were locked in a cupboard, too.
Like my dad, I have many things locked away in my brain that I am not ready to let out. For instance, there is the Barry-stuck-in-a-care-center cupboard locked tight. There is the Barry-is-dying cupboard locked tight. The frontotemporal dementia (FTD) cupboard had been locked up for a long time. But once I unlocked that particular cupboard, I wasn’t as scared about FTD and let myself learn as much as I could about it. Unlocking that cupboard was a big relief, actually. Some sad times in my life I keep locked up until I feel I can handle them. It always feels better to unlock the cupboard, but sometimes it is hard to gather the courage to do so. Now I have the loss of my dad locked up in a cupboard.
My Dad and I seem stoic and I guess we are, but believe me, when the cupboards are finally unlocked, we feel as much as everyone else. I just need to unlock things as I become ready to handle them. In some cases, it could take years reach that point! But each cupboard eventually is unlocked!
My plan is to keep the dad cupboard locked until I travel up north this spring. Then I will go for a long hike alone, most likely near Lutsen Resort, one of my dad’s favorite places. As I hike and feel I am ready, I will take the key and unlock the cupboard that holds my sadness and loneliness for my dad and let it out. Once the cupboard is unlocked, there is no locking it again. I will cry and think about all the fun times, and it will be okay. I know I will feel better letting myself remember my dad. But I am not ready to do that yet!
The Barry-dying cupboard is locked because I can’t be distracted by all that sadness while he is still alive. I have to stay the course by visiting the care center and being strong for him. I would be no use as a crying and depressed person. So that one stays locked for now. But I have to admit that I look forward to the day when I can unlock that cupboard and finally feel the sadness — along with great relief.
Then I can start remembering all the good times, as well.