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This blog’s for you, Dad

A Wright's stained bone marrow aspirate smear ...

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Death is all around us.  We routinely watch people getting blown away on television and in movies, read about it in books and everyday in the newspaper.  But it is a different beast when it visits you personally.  Nothing can prepare you for the death of someone you love.

My father died when I was twenty-two, one month after I had graduated from university. He was a journalist, and I, wanting to follow in his footsteps, had majored in journalism. I haven’t published a written word since his death, now eighteen years ago.

He was a lion of a man.  Physically he was tall and striking, with an unmistakable baritone voice.  He was the center of any room around which all others orbited.  In our family he was undisputably the sun, and we, the children and our mother, the planets.

He was opinionated and loved to argue, hot tempered but also as excitable as a child.  He lived for occasions and elections, during either of which it was not uncommon to enter our house and find him running laps around our living areas.   The nursery rhyme ditty “when he was up, he was up; and when he was down he was down” applied to him perfectly.  You knew which one he was the second you crossed the threshold of our house.  If he was up, his enthusiasm was infectious and there was no better place to be in the world.  If he was down, we tiptoed around and avoided his dark being like the plague.

He was the first person I wanted to talk to when anything happened, the first person I wanted to see when I disembarked from a plane, the person I most wanted to succeed in life for.  When he died, just as I was about to launch the me that was me, all of a sudden any and all of my aspirations also died.  My path in life seemed suddenly of little consequence.  With no one to share my achievements with, achieving anything seemed rather pointless.  He was the north on my compass.  Without him, my life operated like a pinball machine, with me as the ball being batted around senselessly.

He had cancer in his bone marrow, multiple myloma is what the doctor’s called it.  But he had cancer before, and had his bladder removed as a result.  He had also survived a heart attack when I was young.  I stubbornly thought he was invincible, right up until we turned off his life support.  I actually thought once we disconnected all of those lines and tubes he would sit up and say, “it’s bloody well about time you did that!”.  The optimism of youth, or sheer stupidity, I’m not sure which.

It was inconceivable to me, as we walked out of the hospital shortly after, that cars continued to drive and people sauntered on their way on the sidewalk, when my whole world had just collapsed.  It was an out of body experience.  Everything had changed, yet nothing had changed.

I went home, went to his closet and took out one of his favourite sweaters that still smelled like him.  I privately wore it and hugged it at night, like a blanket, for weeks, until it needed to be washed and then lost his scent.

Occasionally, but only very occasionally, I have the most lucid dreams of him.  He is with me again, in my life, his presence palpable.  When I wake from these dreams I want to stay in bed all day, savouring and remembering every morsel of what had transpired. Had he visited me, like an angel?  Had he sent me a message?

Once on the tube in London I saw a man that so looked like my father, even had his beautiful thick silver hair, that it took my breath away.  I stared at him, awestruck, and when he got off at the next stop (very likely unnerved by my behaviour), I cried.

I am now approaching middle age, a time of reflection, and am struck by the difference in myself after he died.  I had once walked with a purpose, striding quickly and impatiently through life.  Once he was gone my pace slackened, my direction became uncertain, and  I strolled uncaringly and aimlessly.

I often wonder at the huge impact his death had on my life.  It didn’t leave me orphaned, after all.  I still had a mother and brothers and sisters, friends and even lovers.  But an integral piece is missing that doesn’t ever get filled, it just remains missing, and you learn to live, somehow, with the missing piece.  Good things that happen just aren’t quite as good, the world has lost a bit of its lustre.

As I tell people, and people tell me, life goes on, and so it does, but in a forever changed sort of way.

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  1. MaryBeth Curry
    December 14, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Wow Deanna-this one was soo beautiful but pained me as I read about our dearest Dad.As Christmas draws near I especially miss him as it was one of his favorite times of the year.Christmas has never been the same….but we are so lucky to have had him for a Dad who soo loved his wife and 9 children.Thanks for sharing,Dee…..

    • December 18, 2010 at 4:44 pm

      Dad was like a 6’2″ child at Christmas – he ran lots of laps around the house this time of the year! I agree, it will never, ever be the same. 😦

  2. Liz Brownlie
    April 19, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Deanna, this post just popped up in my Blogger: Dashboard today – not sure why, as it is a few months old. Anyway, your writing continues to amaze me; we are so much more alike than you can imagine. I went through so much of what you describe when my mother passed away 4 years ago. “Look at how those people just continue to live their lives when mine has just been shattered.” I figured I just had to get used to the massive hole in my heart. And while I have ‘moved on’, the hole in my heart is still there, just not as big. I, too, have vivid dreams of Mum and often have sightings of her. I honestly did a double take when I thought she was at the table next to me when I went out for dinner post Nike Women’s Half Marathon.
    Thank you for sharing your father’s story. He sounds like a wonderful man and father. xox Liz

    • April 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks so much Liz. I’m so sorry about your mother – four years is not so long ago, your wounds are fresh.
      That’s strange that this post popped up on your dashboard yesterday – I made some changes to all of my categories in preparation for a theme overhaul.
      Are you running the Vancouver half by any chance? I can’t make the Whistler half sadly, we are going away.

  3. Jenn Moore
    May 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Deanna! I had no idea you had a blog. You certainly have a way with words and I know your dad is so proud of you wherever he may be. This particular entry struck me as my father also passed away from multiple myeloma. Cancer sucks…no other way to describe it. I too, am a cancer survivor. Something I’d never thought I’d say at 40. It is amazing how much it affects our lives. Congratulations on being nominated for Vancouver’s Top Bloggers. I have a feeling you are onto another exciting career! You always seemed to have a talent for wriing. What a great role model you are for your 3 beautiful girls. It is so nice to see where your life has taken you. All the best!

    Jenn MacNeil Moore

    • May 6, 2012 at 12:14 am

      Oh Jenn, such a sad and sorry coincidence for our fathers. And as for you – that is shocking to hear that you’ve also gone through this – and you as well are a fearless role model for your family. Cancer is far too prevalent. Great to hear from you.

  1. October 13, 2011 at 5:24 am

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