It sounds strange to say but we always thought my dad would pass away before my mom. He was in a horrible accident when I was in standard 6 and the aftermath of that has been with him ever since. In fact, the doctors had said if he hadn’t lived such a healthy lifestyle – no smoking, no excessive drinking – he wouldn’t have gotten through all the surgeries way back then.
He did. But recently his age has caught up with him and earlier this year, when he had a health scare, I was convinced he wouldn’t be around very much longer. So much so that I was talking to my brothers about where my mom would stay once widowed, whether we should build on at our house so she could move in or start looking at retirement villages.
But my dad got better and my mom and the universe had different plans. My mom died end of July this year, leaving my dad on his own. I’ve been saying to anyone who cares to listen that it would have ‘been easier’ if my dad had died first. Only in that my mom would have been able ‘to carry on’, albeit with difficulty, she is more social, has a bigger circle of friends and keeps herself busy with loads of little hobbies. My dad, not so much.
He’s always been quite anti-social. More so now. He’s never suffered fools gladly and certainly suffers them even less. My mom was his link to the outside world because all he really needed was the comfort of his own home and the love of my mom. They have been together for 47 years and in that time have spent very little time apart.
And now he’s alone. Straight after my mom died he stayed with my younger brother and his wife. They’re also in the south of Joburg, which is closer to my dad’s house (is it feels wrong to say ‘mom and dad’s house but it also feels just as wrong to refer it to as ‘his house’) and the hospital, where he goes for dialysis twice a week. Where my mom died.
I’ve been going to their house often to pack my mom’s things away and have invited him out with us a few times. He’s agreed once. But other than that he’s turned down my offers. I get it. It’s a long drive from Bassonia to Fourways, he doesn’t like leaving his doggie alone and at the moment I think he just wants to be in his own space.
It’s been hard seeing him like this. Losing my mom, his wife, has left him a broken man and he’s literally aged 20 years. On Monday I didn’t see him. It’s dialysis day. But I popped through on Tuesday and my heart just sank. Without him having to say a word I could see he had moved back home and was staying alone. I cleaned up where I could, washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms. I made his bed, making sure I left my mom’s side untouched. As I moved through the rooms I could hear him quietly sobbing from the lounge. He does this a lot.
Later that evening I called to see how he was and said I would pop through the following day. My dad would always say traveling from my house to them was unnecessary. That it’s too far. That the traffic is horrible. Even when my mom was in hospital he would put me off going too often. But this time when I said I’d see him the next day he simply said ‘ok’.
I arrived in the morning and made my way inside, put my bag down and walked towards the rooms to start cleaning, but my dad said “just sit a bit”. And I did. We sat like that for ages. Occasionally talking, occasionally not. Him doing his soduku, me reading a book of my mom’s I had found. We’d chat about something arbitrary and then sit quietly again. He asked me about work. And about the kids. He asked about something else. Every now and then his eyes would well up with tears and I would fight back mine. But for the first time in forever my dad and I just spent time in each other’s company, my mom not there to buffer our interaction.
And then it hit me. My mom’s last gift to me was time with my dad. We have never been very close. His very being doesn’t allow for that. Few people get my dad, including me. I’m just too sensitive around his rather brash ways. But I suddenly understood that where it would have been ‘easier’ to have my mom around as a bereaved wife, my relationship with my dad would have been as distant as it has always been.
My mom, in her wisdom, knew I didn’t need time with her on her own. But this time with my dad has been precious. Time I wouldn’t have had with him. Time I wouldn’t have given him.
I miss my mom. With every part of me. I miss her from the time I open my eyes to when I put my head on my pillow at night. But I am so grateful for this, her final gift to me. A gift I didn’t even know I wanted.
*the post above is the kind of story I’m looking for you to send me. Nothing hugely personal, but rather those ‘a ha’ moments; witnessing a miracle, big or small, or getting an understanding that brings you peace. The little project has been inspired by my mom and I really want to do this, so please email your stories through to me***