Laughter and chatter rises up through my living room floorboards. I've loved that sound for almost seven years. The students in the Writing Salon classroom downstairs (my business location!) are on snack break. There's creative energy in the air. They sound like an extroverted, animated bunch, and they're making me smile as I sit here on the couch thinking about my father's recent death.
I'm not really thinking about it, per se — it's more like I'm just sitting with the knowledge of it. Dad and I hadn't talked to one another in several years prior to his death. We weren't angry or antagonistic, just at odds about too many basic aspects of life.
When my father died, I have been told, he doubled over, first, in pain. Something seemed to be wrong with his 83-year-old stomach. My drug-addicted brother, who lived with and mooched off my father for several years, was there, so he was the one who rushed Dad to the hospital.
They said he had an aneurism in his stomach, and that he'd probably die within an hour or two — 24 at most. The doctors gave him morphine, the pain went away, he nodded no when they asked him if he was in any pain, and yes when they asked him if he was cold.
A complicated and invasive operation, with a five percent chance of success, was presented to us, his four living children, as a dubious option. Had we opted for that, my father would have had to be transported to another hospital 50 miles away, and the attending doctor wasn't even sure they would be able to get a surgeon to agree to do the operation.
Dad wouldn't have wanted to end up in that mess of a scenario. No heroic measures. He'd always been clear on that. He didn't want to end up living for months in a hospital or nursing home, having to beg some domineering nurse for permission to sneak outside and smoke a cigarette.
And he wanted to be cremated, just as my 66-year-old mother did, just as my 38-year-old baby brother did, and just as I and my three remaining siblings do. A preference for cremation seems to to be one of the few things we can all agree on.
I know it probably seems that because of my breast cancer diagnosis I am obsessing about death. But the thing is, it was just this afternoon, at 3:30 p.m. while I was sitting here working on updating Writing Salon flyers, that I received the phone call telling me my father had died.