I’m not sure how I was designated “the” person responsible for end of life arrangements: releasing the body from the medical examiner, signing for the disposition of Dad’s remains, coordinating the mass in his honor, and keeping the family informed. It’s too much and not enough all at the same time.
I keep plugging away, doing the tasks at hand as best I am able, delegating what I can, then answering to why the task was delegated. And for those who want to help but aren’t able to take on the things I have the foresight to think of, I am left trying to make them feel better.
Meanwhile, my own needs are set aside.
When I finally decided that I needed to put my needs in front of all of the responsibility that I have inherited, the world blew up in protest. As soon as I parked in front of the entrance to the park, my phone rang. It was my dad’s significant other conveying the urgent need for my drivers license and the letters from me and my siblings to be faxed to the medical examiner.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Before I’d hung up from her, another call arrived. By the time I hung up, three text messages arrived. In an attempt to ward off rebellion, I did my best to attend to these as quickly as I could. Then, I declared that I needed an hour of “me time.”
No more than 20 yards into the run, the floodgates opened up. Running is cathartic like this — for me anyway. Behind my sunglasses, tears poured forth as memories from my childhood surfaced. Everything from hiding behind my dad’s leg when he took me to meet someone new, learning to ride a bike with him running beside me, “helping” him mow the lawn, sitting on his lap while he watched football on TV, and waving good-bye to him as he backed his little car out of the driveway for the last time came rushing into my awareness as I ran down the familiar dirt trail.
I reflected on how the new pain of him leaving this earth was oddly similar to the day he backed out of the driveway — separating from Mom AND his kids. That day, so long ago, was perhaps one of the last times I heard the words “I love you” from him. As I looked back on that day forward, I recognized that a large part of my dad died that day.
I kept on running until I came to the shrinking reservior and sat for a bit — enjoying the sunshine and escape from all the tasks at hand. After a bit of this reflection and introspection, the tears stopped. I got up from the rock I was perched on and just ran.
Putting one foot in front of the other, I greeted the folks as I passed by, and once again tucked away all of the sadness behind my smile for a bit longer or until the next time I can break away for a little more “me time.”