Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

"He's not doing very good today. He keeps talking about being dead..."
"OK, I'm on my way."

It's 2:30 pm and I'm at the video store, picking up another week's worth of movies. I just got back from Walmart, after having made my annual Easter purchase (a bra), and was delaying going home. After confirming with all three of them the night before that we would be going to church today (I couldn't get anyone to join me last week) I ended up going alone. I ended up going alone, with only my anger and disappointment for company. When children don't want to do something, they don't do it.

"I need a haircut. Can you get Julie to do it today?"
Incredulous, I answer, "It's Easter Sunday. She's at the hospital." And I hang up.

I walk into my house a few minutes later and they are draped over the couches, playing video games, with manner of filth all around them. Dishwasher not emptied. Garbage not taken out. Recyclables overflowing their bin. They appear to be mad at me for being uptight.

I empty the dishwasher. Take out the garbage. And clean up the recycling. It's been my goal for one year, to get the three of them to take ownership of those three jobs. It's been 365 days of me mentioning, reminding, begging, demanding, and pleading with them to do it. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. Most times we fight about it. Like we fight about getting up and going to church. Or going to school. Or doing homework. Or eating breakfast. Or eating supper together around the table. Or brushing teeth. Or not being on MSN for 10 hours a day.

Everything is a fight and I'm just so tired.

Sorry, world. This is the best I can do. Future daughter-in-laws? Please know I tried.

I change into comfortable hospital-visiting clothes, and head over to Surrey, full of mixed negative emotions. Sadness. Failure. Loneliness. Bitterness.

It's Easter Sunday. He has risen. He has risen indeed. And I'm a grouch.

Jule's on her way home and we pass each other at the 160th intersection. My phone rings.

"Hey, you OK?" It's my sister again. "I know you had a rough night last night. Are you prepared for this hospital visit?"
I start to cry.
"Talk to me."
That makes me cry harder.
"I can't. Call you later."

Is today the day? Is dad going to die today? Am I ready to say goodbye? Why do things have to be so crappy with my kids right now? Are my expectations unrealistic? Am I that hard to live with? Is dad in pain? Is he afraid? Will I be able to do this? Why can't they just take out the garbage when it starts to spill onto the floor? How am I going to handle this visit?

"Hi dad."
Daryl and mom are sitting on one side of the bed. I get a chair and sit on the other.
He opens his eyes and looks at me.
"Jane," he says, slurred and weak.
I rub his legs and feel them tremble and jerk under my touch.
He drifts in and out of sleep. His breathing laboured and uneven.
The three of us not lying in the bed talk about stuff and things. Easter church services. Laptops. Easter-egg coloured clothing. Work. Deadlines. Life. Children.

Eventually he wakes up, hungry. Daryl heads home. Mom feeds him abit of the chicken noodle soup that Jule had made. An hour later I feed him his hospital meal of ham and scalloped potatoes. He seems to perk up as I give him some juice.

"I died this morning," he says to me.
"You did?"
"Are you still dead?"
"Oh. What's that like?"
"It's OK."
"Did you go to heaven?"
"Uh huh. I saw Johnny Weins."
"Was he happy to see you?"
"Yup. I saw Ome too."
"Wow. That must've been great. Was she making you some potato pancakes?"
"Did you see your dad?"
"He nods.
"Who does he look like?"
"Oh, I don't know..."
"Like Uncle John? Does your dad look like Uncle John?"
"No, more like me. I look like my dad."
"Then he must be a handsome man. Did you talk to him?"
He nods and smiles.
"Did he tell you he's proud of you?"
He smiles.
"Did you see Jesus?"
"How about Johnny Cash?"
He shakes his head.
"John and Cass?"
"Who else was up there?"
"Butch. Butch Penner."
"That must've been good to see him again, eh?"
He nods. And smiles.
"Where you scared, being dead?"
"What's heaven like?"
"It's peaceful. Nice."

Then it's his turn to ask questions.
"Are we going to the car show in July?"
" We sure are."
"And I'm going to buy my baby t-bird, right?"
"You bet."
"And you're going to come."
"If you want me to."
"And July is 4 months away?"
"It is."
"Can I go if I'm still dead?"
"I don't know, can you?"

He turns his head to talk to mom on the other side of the bed.
"Are we going to the car show in July?"
"If you want to, we'll go."
"Can I buy that car?"
"Sure, if you want to."

Then he notices me, and turns his head. Looking me in the eyes he says,
"Are we going to the car show in July?"
"Yup. Who else should we invite?"

And so it went, back and forth, for 10 minutes. I left the room to take away his supper tray and put his leftover soup in the fridge. When I came back, he was settling into bed after a trip to the bathroom.

"I died," he said.
"Did you go to heaven?"
"Yes. Is Art Hayden a christian?"
"I don't know. He used to be. Maybe he still is..."
(Apparently, during the afternoon, before I got there, he went through lists and lists of people asking mom and Julie if those people were Christians or not.)
"Are you a Christian?" I ask.
"How come you didn't stay in heaven?" I asked tonight.
He shrugs.
"Who did you spend time with?" I asked.
"Did she tell you to come back?"
He nods.
"She's not ready for you to be there, is she? Or maybe she told you you've still got some things to do on earth?"
He nods.

When I left him this evening, he was clear-eyed and comfortable, still convinced that he was dead, but enjoying Rio Bravo never-the-less. I pulled on his red headset,
"I love you, dad."
"I love you too."

I blew him a kiss that he reciprocated as I left.

"Thank you God, for this visit. Thank you for giving him a glimpse of the place You are preparing for him. Thank you for showing him that it is a place of peace. Thank you that he had a glimpse of his mom, his dad, his friends. Thank you that he's not afraid. Thank you. Can you help me with my kids? Cuz. Well. You know. I am not handling this well. Amen."

Three things I'm thankful for:
1. A memorable Easter Sunday.
2. Four new DVD's to watch, all with potential.
3. The peace of mind that comes from knowing my dad will be going to heaven.


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