I started 2019 off the correct way: in the art studio. And it felt so good. I’ve been so busy and exhausted that I haven’t been painting much lately. But I took Tuesday off and just painted what I wanted to paint. And it was a good thing. And it was a bad thing. Because what I chose to paint was this:
You know, ’cause my dad was a train freak. Next month will be the third anniversary of my dad’s death, and between that knowledge and the holidays, I’ve been missing him something fierce. About a month ago, S poppped in some of my old home movies, and I got to watch my dad in his 30’s – younger than I am now. And, for the first time since he was diagnosed with dementia, it made me actually feel happy to watch. I really enjoyed it. And then I started having nightmares about him again. WTF is that? I wasn’t sad watching those videos, so why did they spark a new round of “Dadmares?”
And now I’m struggling again. Every time I feel like I’m getting back to normal, thinking about him a little less and with less pain, I get thrown back in. And what I’m thrown into, more than anything, is those final, horrible days with him, when he was hurting so much and my mom and I couldn’t make it better for him. It just fucking haunts me. I worked so hard to make sure that I had as few regrets as possible as we cared for him following his diagnosis. I’ve dealt with enough death to know that regret that can’t ever be remedied is not something I want to deal with again. So I set out to do things right with my dad. And I did. I’m proud of how fiercely I worked to love him and advocate for him. But there wasn’t anything we could do at the end.
It’s not so much regret, I suppose, as just grief that I was so helpless to make his pain stop. Watching someone you love suffer for that long…it just stays with you. And most of the time, when I think of him, that’s what I think of. I flashback to sitting in the hallway outside of his room after about 48 hours of watching him writhe and moan, and just losing my shit while a CNA watched helplessly. I flashback to lying on his bed and whispering soothing things in his ear to try to distract him from the pain. I flashback to feeling so tired it made me queasy, and ignoring the death rattle for close to an hour because I just couldn’t make myself open my eyes and get out of the recliner one more time to check on him.
Here I am, three years later, still desperate to make his pain stop, even though he’s already long gone. I don’t know how to let it go. So for now, I’m just painting something that made him happy in the hopes that it’ll make me happy.