Night before last, I went by to see my father at the nursing home where he rests in a coma--one foot in this world and one in the next. It was awful. He was wasting away, and I was visiting him twice each day and it was breaking my heart.
I went to my exercise class at the YMCA and I was a mess. In the middle of class I found a mat and stretched out on it and looked up at the sky, thinking about what I was putting myself through.
You have to let him go, I said to myself. You have to let him go.
The next morning, in spite of all the odds, my amazing father had made it through another night. I had made it through another night without getting THE CALL.
I made my coffee and realized I didn't want to visit him. When he was able, we said our goodbyes. He knew I loved him and I knew he loved me and our whole family.
I decided not to visit. Just for one day.
And now it is dawn of the next day, and my father, whose heart and lungs are still so strong they won't give up, has made it through another night. And I have too. And I find myself moving away from his death and re-entering my own life, because it is the only healthy thing I can think of to do.
Yesterday, instead of visiting him, I spent the afternoon cleaning out the final boxes of stuff at the family home. I'm getting ready to move in over there and I had to tackle these boxes to clear out the last room. And those boxes were--as almost everything has been these last few months--a revelation.
These files I sorted were full of my parents' extensive correspondence. And these two intelligent people wrote everyone, from newspaper editors to their congressmen to CEOs of companies to magazines to television producers whose shows they liked or disliked and on and on and on.
And they both scolded everyone. If my mother bought a pair of stockings from Hanes that didn't meet her standards, she wrote and scolded the company. If America's tax structure seemed illogical to my father he wrote and scolded as many people in Washington as he could think of. My Mom wrote a dishware company and told them how their dishes didn't match properly, thank you very much. My father scolded Ford Motor Co. about their cars.
And as I sat their, sifting through and disposing of their huge files of scolding letters I started to get mad. Who did they think they were, I said to myself, to go around correcting everyone all the time?
Worse--who did they think they were to leave me to sort through all this stuff? What--is my time worth nothing and theirs so precious that I was left behind to do all this work?
And then I began to laugh and to realize that I was getting angry at them in order to let them both go.
These two intellectually curious, competitive, literate people of strong moral fibre and very high standards for everything from English grammar to economic theory, were what they were.
And they produced me.
And now it was time for us to part.
I saved a few of the letters for the Chapman Family Archives and I tossed the rest. The world will be a much weaker, less corrected place without these two tenacious watchdogs on the trail of its many errors.
So it can take a rest. Because they are now at rest. And it is time for me to take a rest as well.
And remember loving them, as part of my past. And begin to live my life anew in the present.
I go forward, much corrected.