If you asked me fourteen years ago, where I thought I would be today, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought at this very moment. As I got the phone call this morning, my father’s ill health from lung cancer had taken a noticeable turn worse and family was now being called in to his bedside, I was preparing for another major event in my life just as pressing, a custody battle in court tomorrow morning.
As my ex-wife to be fond of criticizing me for, being unable to balance between the needs of my dying father, and my daughters, instead of being able to deal with the important event at the moment, my father’s last breath, because we have not been able to come to terms with each other in regards to custody, I will leave my father’s bedside in the morning, to deal with this issue in court, something that she openly said she would do.
Everyone was here at the nursing home when I had arrived. Hospice had been called in to verify that everything was being done to keep my father comfortable and to see if anything could be done for family members to help us during our time of grief. For the most part, my father has kept his eyes closed, occasionally murmuring some unintelligible noises.
Today, I had to forget about what I had to deal with in court tomorrow, as important as being able to spend time with my daughters is to me. There is no way to know, how many more moments I will have with my father. My sister and brother are here, and many visitors have decided to come in today upon the news that my father may be on his way home to his father, and brothers and sisters.
I pulled out my cell phone to play a video clip from a few weeks ago. I taped my oldest daughter singing “God Bless America” for my father. She was rehearsing for a school performance at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly for a professional hockey game. But it was a moment that I will never forget because of the hugs smile it gave my father, in the darkest of times. I placed the phone to his ear, and you could see twitches deep below the pale, dry skin. He could hear Madison sing and I knew he liked it.
Then it occurred to me, that in all my years of singing, I realized my father had only heard me sing once, a long time ago and a song had come to mind, one that meant a lot to me, and I had hoped for him as well. The night before I mentioned to him that I was so proud to be his son. That he should be proud of who I am, I am the man I am today because of him. He mumbled that he wished he could have done more. And I assured him that he had done plenty.
So this evening I sang the beautiful song to him about a relationship between a father and his son. My parents divorced when I was very young, so I did not get to have the stereotypical relationship with him, but in spite of that, I turned out a lot like him anyway. I sang “Cats In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin. I got choked up often through the song, and what was only a three minute song, took me seven minutes to get through it. But as my sister and stepmother sat in the background, I could see again, my father’s reactions to my voice.
And again, I told my father, it was okay. It was okay to go see his dad. We would take care of his wife until it was her time to reunite with him. It was okay to go see his brothers and sisters. We would miss him a lot, but we know we would see him again some day.
It is all quiet now in the nursing home. There are no bed alarms going off, and in fact, half of the building is now dimly lit. My stepmother is in the room with my father for the night as she wished.
But now, I am preparing for my custody hearing, that I will now have to leave my father’s bedside to attend. Hopefully it will not go long as I feel I have offered a more than fair offer. But had she agreed to it, we would not have to meet yet tomorrow morning.
Make no mistake, my daughters are the most important thing in my life. And it has been the hardest thing in the world to not have the support of my ex-wife, under these circumstances to be understanding that the time that I have been spending with my father in his dying days has been just as important. I will not have many more days with him.