60 days ago everything in my life halted…and to many, it may seem like I have been absent ever since.
This word absent sounds so negative. Kinda like I am expecting a teacher to catch me ditching class or something important. However, in this case, my absent state has actually been the exact opposite of negative. It’s been the opposite of ditching. It’s been the opposite of missing something important.
In my absence, I have become present.
I have been completely present…just not present where I expected to be when 2016 kicked off. I am really into planning things…maybe almost in an OCD kind of way. I have the whole year mapped out on my calendar for events, business deadlines, plans for the kids, timelines for projects on our home, visits with family. The whole nine yards. I guess this is my way of keeping things organized, even if plans do not work out the way I expect.
I digress. The thing is – I planned to be “snowed in” in our quiet Colorado mountain town for the first three months of this year. I wanted it to be a time of creativity, serenity and development of new dreams I had been conjuring up.
Instead I have been in the California desert.
My dad has been dying for the last four years. Dementia not only took away his memory, it took away his two leading ladies: my mom and I.
There’s a long backstory to this but the bulk of it is that someone we once trusted (family) took my dad without our knowledge or consent, promised to take care of him but instead locked him in rooms, left him alone, stole from him, did not seek medical care and restricted us from speaking to him or visiting him. Four years. Legal battles. Phone calls to Adult Protective Services (APS). House visits. Nothing brought us back to him.
Until 60 days ago.
The police found my father wandering the streets on New Years Eve. Sadly, they believed that he had been wandering for days. He was in poor health and very confused. APS chose to admit him to the hospital and I was notified.
Upon receiving the call, I dropped to my knees in disbelief, concern, joy…and overwhelming gratefulness.
Since then, my whole world has been about my dad. Daddy. Although he rarely connected the dots to my face and name at the same time, I became his leading lady again with my mom right by my side.
You know, I didn’t know much about dementia before all of this. I knew that daddy would forget my name and many stories of the past…but I didn’t know that his body would forget how to work too. It’s been devastating to watch the strongest man I know become crippled. He has been a survivor from birth, weighing only 2.5 lbs, in 1928. He served in the Korean War, spent time in prison, kicked cancers ass twice, owned his own business for 30 years, worked until he was 80 years old and started a fist fight with a man twice his size when he was 75.
In the last 60 days he has had me wrapped around his little finger, rather than the other way around…and I wouldn’t change one minute of it. He told my mom, my husband and I thank you whenever he could and told us he loved us more in two months than I had heard over my lifetime. On the days that he was too weak to speak or move I cuddled up with him in his bed and sang songs, read letters I had written him and talked to him about our life together. Some of my best memories of him are in these days.
Life…real life is about the quiet moments when nothing but our breath matters and I’ve learned so much from just listening to the sound of my dad’s breath, watching his chest rise and fall and the pulse thump in his neck.
The hospice doctors warned us that dementia would eventually cause my daddy to stop eating, stop swallowing and eventually stop breathing. I have joked for years that he would outlive us all because “heaven wouldn’t want him and hell is afraid that he would take over”. I half expected it too.
It turns out…daddy needed to start his next big journey.
On night 54 he took his last breath. It was the most beautiful and peaceful goodbye I have ever experienced.
I am devastated.
It’s completely painful.
I miss him so much.
I was present. This has resulted in a shift of family history as well as incredible emotional and spiritual growth in my own life. My absence in other areas of my life allowed me to give my dad everything I could and to show him how much l love him, even though neither of us were very good at expressing that for so many of our years as father and daughter. It has allowed me intense moments of meditation, connection to my Creator and a tribe of completely kick ass people who have supported us during this time.
I am present. I see that my “snowed in” plan was just not what the Divine had planned for me…and I am now, more than ever, very aware that each moment is so much more than I can plan or map out.
I will be present. This is changing my future. So much of who I am has been altered because of the last 60 days.
It’s super REAL.
Life is still on hold…and it will be for a while. Everything is shifting, and after living in Southern California for most of my life, I know that it’s foolish to take a step when the world around you is unsteady.
Creatively, I am flourishing. Spiritually, I am thriving. Emotionally, I am full.
The Portrait Biographies™ book releases will wait.
The business account social media posts will wait.
The events. The plans. The deadlines. The timelines. They will wait too.
It’s time for me to be present again, for myself, my husband, my mom and my kiddos.
xoxo - Sarah