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Gray Sky Days
Gray Sky Days
All of you reading this for the first time are probably thinking why "Gray Sky Days?"
Well, in a nutshell, gray skies have always been there on many life moments, some happy, others sad. For me, they seem to be the blank canvas on which fate draws the events of my life.
One of my early gray sky memories was when I was just 8 years old. I was sitting on my driveway, waiting for my dad to come home, reading a comic book, while the gray sky teased me with small droplets of rain. At that age, I had some friends who didn't have a dad or whose dad just never came home. My dad did always. He was a good man, and I never doubted he would come home. It was a fact--Dad loved my brother, sister, and myself--and he would always be there for us. When I think of that gray sky, sure, I remember the details---the rain hitting my face, the comic I was reading (Captain America 185), the way the pebbles on the driveway pushed into my tiny elbows, but what I really remember and what fills my heart with warmth is the image of my dad's car pulling up in the driveway.
Another gray sky day I remember was an outside jazz concert in middle school. Now, those of you who are my friends, know I am a dedicated, sometimes professional sax player. Back then, I was just a kid learning to play a somewhat daunting horn. I remember we were outside, gray skies threatening to rain, and we were playing a song called "Corazon" by Woody Herman. I still even remember the kind of reed I had on my horn (Lavoz, medium hard). Most of all, I remember my dad there with his Montgomery Ward's tape recorder capturing the concert. I don't think anyone yelled louder or clapped louder for me when I took a solo than my dad.
My dad and I went through many great days like that over the years. When I grew up and left home, he became more than just a parent, he became one of my best friends. We would go out a couple of times a month to see a movie or a concert. I would go visit him and mom once a week for Sunday dinner. That great gray sky feeling seemed to get better and better. One I hoped would never end.
Four years ago, I lost my dad to kidney cancer.
He had gone into the doctor for a simple hernia operation, and when they opened him up, the operation was aborted due to the fact that the hernia was not one at all, but rather, it was a massive cancerous tumor. The next day dad was to discuss treatment options with his doctor.
It was a gray sky day at work, when I got a call from my mom. She told me in a voice filled with shock that chemo was not an option--my dad had less than six months to live. I took the news well on the phone--calmly--after all, I didn't want to have my mom worry about me. She had enough on her plate. I finished the call, asked my secretary to come into my office, told her what I had just heard, and I cried.
My dad made the decision to go through a hospice program. For those of you unaware of what that is, basically, it allows a terminally ill person to go through the last days of their life pain-free and also gives them a nurse who among many, many things provides comfort. I have infinite respect and love for those dedicated professionals who work in the hospice field.
Over the month after the diagnosis, I watched my once energetic dad whither away. To stop the pain of the last stages of the cancer, he was given liquid morphine.
The day before he died, I went to visit my mom on Sunday as usual. I came into my parent's bedroom, and my dad was on the bed breathing heavily. He was staring at the ceiling with a weird, glassy-eyed look. My dad was there, but the soul, the essence of what was my dad, wasn't. I wanted so hard to cry, seeing my dad like that, but I couldn't. I had to be strong for my mom.
My mom sat beside him, wiping his fevered brow with a damp washcloth. She said in a soft voice that I was there. For a brief second, my dad turned, looked at me, and said, "Jeffrey." Immediately, he went back to his vegetative state.
My dad never uttered another word.
The last word he ever would say was my name. I can't even begin to describe how emotionally powerful that is. Every time I think of that moment, my eyes tear up.
The next night, I got a knock on my door. It was my brother and sister. Now, my brother lives in Houston, and my sister lives in Dallas, so they usually don't show up out of the blue to knock on my door. I knew before they said a word that it was bad news. My brother calmly told me my dad had died a couple of hours beforehand. Fortunately for them, when they got the news that my dad didn't have much longer to live, they were able to travel quickly to him before he passed away.
I was very sad of course, yet at the same time, happy that a man I loved immensely was no longer in such pain.
On Thursday of that week, we buried my father. It was a gray sky day...