The doctors kept him in the hospital for a few more days after I arrived home. They needed to do some testing and wanted keep an eye on him. Our house felt eerie and strange. His presence was still strong but it was different. The overall mood was pretty solemn and tense. We went down to visit him in the mornings. My brother, an excellent chef, cooked healthy food to counteract everything that was given to him at the hospital. He seemed to be in good spirits. He joked and made friends with the nurses and had plenty of visitors to keep him company until he was set free.
They decided to let him go home on a Saturday. It happened to be the day of my cousin (his godson’s) wedding. He told us that we were all going to the reception, no exceptions. He wanted us to smile and have a good time and celebrate with my Mom’s family. I was in no mood to be around people and put up a small fight. I used the old excuse that I had nothing to wear. He handed me his credit card and told me to go buy something. There was no getting out of it so my sisters and I reluctantly went shopping.
Since he lost control of his bladder and bowels he was now confined to an adult diaper. They told him before he was released that this function would not be restored. Through it all, he maintained his dignity which will never cease to amaze me. I felt like I was moving through mud getting ready for the wedding. I came downstairs and saw my Dad for the first time since he had come home. He could barely keep his pants up and his jacket swallowed him. He looked like a child playing dress up in his Father’s suit. Looking at him stung, badly. I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and wondered what the hell was going on.
True to style, we were late for the wedding. So much for sneaking in and not making a scene. Everyone was already seated for dinner and we had to parade across the dance floor to get to our table. My Dad wasn’t moving fast, so we dragged along beside him. I felt like we were in an 80s movie. For all I know the music did stop and the room went silent. Thankfully some of our cousins came to greet us which made things a little less awkward.
I was sitting with my Mom’s sister and some of her other siblings. It was reassuring to be with her family and somehow it made it easier to feel her presence. Plus my Grandma’s hugs are always comforting. Our table fell silent as my Mom’s favorite song, What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, filled the room. It was the song she requested we play to close her funeral. My cousin wanted her to be a part of the wedding so he chose that song to dance with his Mom. A small piece of my heart shattered as my Grandmother got up and asked my Dad to dance. A red flag was raised in my mind. I tried not to cry as I watched them struggle to maintain composure. They couldn’t look each other in the eye. I could feel the mutual love, sadness and fear dancing between them. When the song ended my Dad asked his girlfriend to dance. Halfway through she told him to take some time with his daughters which I’m eternally grateful for. We each got about thirty seconds with him and being the oldest, I was last. He was uncomfortable and I could tell he wanted it to be over quickly. Emotions aside it was awkward. I now have even more empathy for animals at the zoo. I felt like people had a view into a private moment between my Father and I; a moment I would have preferred not to share. I know he was protecting both of our hearts but it felt like I was dancing with a stranger. I wanted him to tell me that he was going to be ok, that our family was going to be ok. I wanted him to laugh and say that this was all a big fucking joke. I wished he would reassure me that my intuition was wrong, and that nothing was going to change. But deep down we both knew that it would be our last dance together.