It didn’t take long to convince dad that we had to let her go. So we all went to her room where she was still plugged into the machines. I had brought along a mix tape that my sister had made for her, and we played it. I will never be able to listen to “I am a Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel again without thinking of her taking her last breath.
The six of us siblings had managed to fill the room and the world with a whole bunch of grandkids. I think the official count is eighteen, but let me do the math. Andra has three, Paul has five, Norman has two, Susan has four, Alan has two, and I have two. There are some step-kids in there also, and one great-grandchild, so we make an impressive clan when all in one place. And here we were collectively crying as we watched dad hold her hand for the last time, and kiss her goodbye. I can’t write it three years later without crying.
We saw vulnerability in our father. The facade that he had developed over the past 85 years or so had cracked. He was no longer infallible and fearless. He was a man, flawed and now opened up and raw for the first time in our lives.
I think I had seen him get choked up when his oldest son, Arnold, died of AIDS twenty years earlier, but that was only a maybe. He never cried. He didn’t crack. He simply persevered and went on to comfort others in their sadness. I suppose that’s what a pastor learns to do, and he did it to the best of his ability.
But on that day, and in the days since, he has cried many times. His face will hollow, and his eyes will water, and he will speak of his “Dear wife” or “beautiful wife.” “My wife, your mother,” he will start, and then tell us the same stories over and over. It’s a beautiful, if slightly dishonest, or at the very least twisted narrative. That’s the nice thing about dementia and old-age; Vitauts can convince himself of anything.