Have you ever felt you know something about somebody, but later find out that you didn’t know the true depth of knowledge that you thought you did? Dad was really good at hiding things. If he didn’t want you to know something, he would really pull out all the stops to keep things under control, his way. Among the little things about the man I didn’t know, as time is progressing there are other things that I knew of, somewhat, but not nearly in the way that I thought I did.
For the last few years, Dad had two episodes that I knew of where he’d passed out inexplicably. He chalked it up to blood sugar or some such thing. I also knew that his kidneys were nearly in failure and he had a strict diet to keep them working as long as possible. What I was unaware of was the fact that he was passing out more often and was having memory issues. My aunt would walk in his apartment and find him in his chair in a bit of a daze. He collapsed at the car wash the week before he died. He had several instances of traveling to a place and then just sitting there for hours because he completely lost track of everything. There was even a time he went out to his car, but once he was in it he was looking at his key in such a way that he didn’t understand it’s purpose. I had no idea that Dad was having such severe problems. Most people didn’t. He played it off as if he’d just fallen asleep watching TV, or had been on the phone, or was tired. He didn’t let anyone into his problems that he didn’t want into them. And he didn’t want a single person to worry about him.
I think about all of this, but I do not think, “If only someone had said something!” Dad was quite the stubborn man. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought. If he didn’t want to go to the doctor, he just didn’t go. He waved off any concerns about his health and kept on trucking. I know I never saw it. I never talked to Dad on the phone or spent time with him in person and saw him have any kind of memory or cognizance issue. He kept it together for me.
Part of me is thankful that he didn’t continue to deteriorate. The last memory I have of my grandfather (Dad’s dad) is in the hospital, hooked up to countless tubes. He smiled at me and reached out to shake my hand. Here was a man that had an iron grip his whole life and could tear apples into two pieces with his bare hands, and he was shaking my hand to show me he still had it. Only he didn’t. His illnesses had made him weak and frail. I loved my grandpa very much, and it hurt me to see him in such a state.
Before I left Pawhuska today, I stopped out at the cemetery to visit his grave. His marker isn’t there yet, but the Martin Family one is. I stood there in the fog and just stared at the ground. I knew his urn was down there, and figured it would be no big deal. I told Dad I loved him and went back to the car before I totally lost my mind again. I’ve always been sensitive, but I’ve never felt so emotionally vulnerable in my life. It’s like vomiting sadness. Although my day to day life is more or less back to normal, those moments still hit as hard as they did on day one.
It gets better, and it will. There is still so much to do.