My father-in-law and I only ever did one thing completely on our own. We went shopping for lingerie. Now there is a statement that just begs for an explanation.
A few years ago Mom and Dad came to visit us in Thousand Oaks for the holidays. Shortly after their arrival my father-in-law pulled me aside and with a twinkle in his eye he asked me if I would help him buy a very special gift for my mother-in-law. Of course I agreed and later that week we made up some reason to go out and we went to the mall. Now, if you knew Kent you would know that shopping was NOT his favorite thing to do and shopping for women’s clothes was certainly among his least favorite things to shop for. And, well, shopping at the mall on the week of Christmas? Now that was unheard of.
I had never seen him like this before. Jean had recently lost a lot of weight and he was so proud of her that he wanted to buy her something very special. He kept reiterating to me that he had never bought anything like this before and that it had to be just the right thing. We went to several stores. He was serious about making a thorough search. Our shopping eventually led us to the mecca of lingerie – Victoria’s Secret. Now Dad was not out to buy mom something that he thought he would like to see her in, he was out to buy something for her to make her feel special. He selected a lovely nightgown and a satin robe. It was beautiful and he decided it was perfect. My father-in-law was not known for being showy. But that day he wanted the full effect. He wanted the metallic pink striped gift box, the pink tissue paper and the gift bag. When we arrived back at our condo, we left the bag in the trunk of the car. We waited for our moment when the coast was clear and then we hid the bag in the back, under the tree, behind all the other packages. He wanted it to be a surprise. He wanted it to be last. He wanted her to feel like she was valued and important and beautiful. She is all that.
Today, my Dad and I did something else together. Just me and Dad.
Today I went down to my local Post Office with a little manilla card in my hand. It said I had a registered package that I had not been home to receive yesterday. I waited my turn. The woman working the window motioned for me to come forward. It was my turn. I handed her my card, signed it and she checked my identification. Then she disappeared into the back room. She had to come back and check the card. The next time she came back she was holding a box. She gave it to me and I took it knowing what or rather who was inside. It was a smallish box, brown cardboard like most and I carried it to my car. I got in the car and placed the box on the passenger seat. As I was pulling out of the parking lot I reached over to touch the top of the box.
My father-in-law donated the use of his body to science through a group called Science Care. He and Mom made this decision together as they wanted to help others in death as in life. My father-in-law hoped that with his last act he would be able to contribute to someone else’s healing.
When we got the news that my father-in-law had passed we had just come through security at DFW to wait for our flight to Phoenix as we knew he was not going to be getting better and had been moved to hospice. My husband’s knees buckled and he crumpled to the floor in my arms. I cried with him. I cried for him.
When you give your body to be used for research, they come to get it within 2 hours. My husband and I were not there in time to see his Dad before they came to take his body away. Now I know, that what they came to get, was merely his lifeless body, not him. Not who he is. But nevertheless, it made the whole experience seem even less real and more dream like.
We went to Phoenix; we gathered with the family; we reminisced with friends; we celebrated his life. I cried. I cried for Mom. I cried for Kent. I cried for their friends. I cried for the family. But I still didn’t or couldn’t begin to really mourn like he was gone. It just didn’t seem real. I knew it was. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.
I touched that box on my front seat. It was real. He was real. He loved me. He took out my trash and fought with my husband and I about whether Lady Gaga has any talent. He enjoyed a good drink and gave us all funny nicknames and loved to see people enjoy a good meal. He swam in the pool and drank margaritas with us just 2 months ago. He loved to watch sports and he always made sure he was close to the phone every night for his call from Kent. He was strong and loud and quiet and funny and stern and loving and smart and kind and he would have loved that he got a one-way ticket here for just $26.26. “Now that is a good buy,” he would have said.
He was with us, just two and a half weeks ago and now all that was left of him here and now in this time and place was in this box on my front seat. I bawled. No really. I stopped the car and bawled. Snot. Sobbing. Real.
We drove home. Just me and Dad.
When we got home I carried the box inside. I hugged it. I hugged that damn box and I cried and cried. This was our moment. I NEEDED to open that box. I didn’t want his remains in a shipping box. Why? I don’t know. I opened it. Inside was baby blue wrapping and just under that was a certificate of cremation. On the end of the box it has his name. I bawled again. I carried the box in and placed it gently on my husband’s desk. I am not sure what happens now. Except this.
I had to come and write it down. I guess this is what I do now. It is funny. I never used to do this.
I want to leave you with one last thing my lovelies. Life, it is real, and so is death. Death sucks but love wins. Love wins. Love wins. Love wins. My husband will see his Dad again. My Mom will hold the love of her life again. We will laugh again. We will eat a big ass steak again. What we won’t do with Dad, is cry again. When next I am with you Dad and we get to do something, just you and me, let’s take a walk by the crystal sea, eh? Or maybe sit in the pool and drink margaritas. I wonder if heaven has a swim up bar?
Read more here: Cancer, Family & Hope