Sunday Share


Amy

Tonight Mister Cupcake and I are going to see our favorite band, Wilco.  Jeff Tweedy has a special place in my heart and rather than try to explain why I think one of his songs was the vehicle for my dad to be present at my wedding I’m just going to share this story I wrote for a website that one of my all time favorite authors has.  His name is Robert Leleux and he wrote The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy.  Please read that book before you expire from the earth.  It will make your heart and soul and brain shinier.  He recently wrote another  book  about his experience with his grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and I am proud to say that I was able to find enough focus to mold a special story to share for the website which like the book is called The Living End.

We Won’t Get Along Without You When You Go

Things didn’t go as planned after my dad died. His ashes, which were to be strewn in the ocean in front of his beach condo are still sitting on a shelf in my sister’s closet.

My old cell phone containing the last photo I took of him is still buried under a pile of wires in a drawer. Every now and then I scrounge it out and look at that final image for as long as I can stand it. It was Father’s Day 2006, two days before he died. He’s sitting in His Chair, tired eyes looking right into the camera and posing in his reliable picture stance: fingertips clasped, head tilted, a slight smile. He has shorts on and his bruised, scrawny legs remind me of how hard it was for him to walk toward the end.

My heart lurches when I see the area around him—everything necessary within reach. A giant box of Kleenex, his albuterol, his glasses, a telephone with oversized numbers, pens and pencils, unread copies of Harpers and The Nation, a calendar from Unicef, the sweatshirt we brought him from Mexico, the little notebook he kept track of his meals and breathing treatments in, a headline cut from the LA Times that said “Library Bans Body Odor” that I gave him as a present and, most importantly, several boxes containing every shape, texture and size of Band-Aid known to man.

His entire world became a four by four square that we tended to and organized. My sister and our husband’s never spoke about it but I think we all hoped that as long as we used our eight strong arms to hold him up, he’d stay suspended in air, and we’d be able to maintain our wobbly orbit of love around him forever.

He had a slow, steady decline after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in September 2001. He never forgot our names or who we were and he might have lived longer were it not for his emphysema but, looking back on the days of his illness, is like looking back on being a determined soldier in a gentle war.

I didn’t mind being in that war.

It was my sister and I that became an army of two to keep him in one piece. Our mission, from the moment he got sick, was to create a safety net the size of the Western Hemisphere with the hope that, if we cared for him expertly enough, we’d never lose him.

I thought I’d feel relief when the whole battle ended and I no longer had to watch him melt in slow motion. I thought I’d feel free when I didn’t have to picture him walking backward in the direction of a steep cliff that everyone could see but him.

When he did die, weeks after a breathing attack brought on by emphysema, the relief I thought I would feel wasn’t there. The only thing I felt was a longing to continue to make sure he was okay.

“He’s going to be so confused without us,” my sister said after the mortuary drove his body away.

Oh, he was so confused. So shaky and bumbling and flimsy. He looked to us for sturdiness and we provided an endless supply. Nothing prepared me for how much I’d miss being that kind of giver.

I miss my Saturday morning calls to him, reporting that I was on my way to go pick up two turkey sandwiches for us to eat while we watched TV in his room. I miss seeing his thrilled face when I walked in the door as if we hadn’t seen each other in weeks.

“Jesus you’re a sight for sore eyes! And you brought lunch too!”

I miss how grateful he was about every little thing.

I miss watching television together while he struggled to understand Oprah’s allure. I miss how he’d hold his Nebulizer breathing treatment tube like it was a cigar.

I miss Post-It notes, index cards and pieces of notebook paper with reminders written in huge letters on them:

DON’T GO TO DINING ROOM *** WEDNESDAY JUNE 7 ***
AMY BRINGING SANDWICHES!

I miss Sharpies, Scotch tape and bulletin boards covered with family pictures. I miss talking about all the things he still knew—baseball, politics, college football and how my sister and I were the best people he’d ever known.

I miss knowing that anything but the present moment is an illusion. I miss that feeling of not being able to imagine what it would be like without him.

**********

Yours In Forever Reminding,
Cupcake

22 Comments on "Sunday Share"

  1. wow oh wow. Where to start?
    First off, I don’t know which one is you, Cupcake, but you and your sister are both beautiful. Your Dad has the kindest face I have ever seen, and reading this post made me feel like my own Dad was right here in the room.
    You made me cry, but it’s a good cry.
    He was so good, wasn’t he?

  2. Cupcake Murphy says:

    Thank you Hilary. He was the best. I’m on the left. That was us then—The Three Musketeers. If anything, he felt loved. What more can you ask for?

  3. PJ says:

    I honor the love and faithfulness between you, your sister and your father. I don’t know what it is like to have a kind parent so stories such as yours are perhaps all the more precious to me.

    “He looked to us for sturdiness and we provided an endless supply.” Sturdiness is a blessed thing to give and receive.

  4. steve says:

    This is what life’s all about. Y’all are so lucky to have each other, and it’s so cool to see that you know it and relish it and cherish it.

    • Cupcake Murphy says:

      It’s totally what it’s all about. At the end, nothing matters except kindness and love and letting go.

  5. One must part to meet again.

  6. The Zadge says:

    I hope my tears don’t smear this, but my god, that last sentence has me bawling. But I bet he is smiling up there in heaven reading the beautiful words his daughter wrote about him.

  7. claudia w says:

    Oh what a wonderful smile on your dad’s face!
    Thank you for this. My sisters and I are in the beginning days of taking care of our father. His 90th birthday is just around the corner. He is still driving, still very alert just having some trouble getting around. We need to take care of his house, so that he has a nice place to live. It may come to the time when I will go and stay with him in his home, because that is where he belongs. My hope is that I can be as graceful and grateful as you while I am doing this for him!

    • Cupcake Murphy says:

      I think we brought him a lot of happiness. We made him proud and I miss that feeling of being another person’s absolute favorite human (along with my sister)

  8. Suzanne says:

    oh my god. What a beautiful tribute to your sweet daddy. It’s so wonderful to have a great dad, which makes it so hard when you lose him. Thank you so much for sharing this – reading it makes me feel a little closer to my own dad who is gone- which sounds weird I know. My dad had his lifeline (which is what I called it) at the kitchen table. All his meds and the various items there to keep him alive, along with two or three books that he could no longer see, but seemed to give him comfort just holding, and the TV remote. He sat at the kitchen table day in and day out for a year. Years later, it still used to piss me off to see my step dad sitting in that chair – even though my step dad is a nice guy, But now that table is in my kitchen and my dad and I have regular chats. I highly recommend it. Thanks again for sharing this story – it was truly beautiful.

    • Cupcake Murphy says:

      OH MY GOD you reminded me of the remote. That, above all else, was like THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON EARTH. One time I had to explain to him how to change the channel over the phone and he said “that was like assembling a goddamn nuclear bomb in the dark.”

  9. MidLyfeMama says:

    My grandmother passed away recently at the ripe old age of 92. She lived a lot longer than anyone with all of her ailments had business living, but it was so good that my son got to know her, even if it was as a cranky old lady with fragile onionskin paper for skin. You breathed on her and she bled. My aunt was the primary care giver for her and my grandfather, who is still with us god bless him. I think she would completely identify with this post. The daily routine is not as demanding with my grandfather, who is much healthier and well, just less demanding than Agnes was. She lives to be a care giver in every sense of the word, but most of all for her mother.

    It may shred her to read this, but I think I will share it. Thank YOU for sharing it.

  10. I read this early this morning and was left speechless by your words. I couldn’t, didn’t know what to say. My Mom had emphysema and lung cancer. She lived with me the last 5 months of her life. Your words, many of them describe my feelings and my heart’s hurts during that time. I still have her driver’s license and her checkbook register and her apron that she wore to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly I can’t hear her voice anymore, what it sounded like but I can see her getting out of her car with a cherry pie in her hands and saying “Hi Sweets!”. She has been gone since August of 1987 and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her several times. I still want to pick up a phone and talk to her. I want to put my hand in hers. Your words Cupcake, they are very dear.

    • Cupcake Murphy says:

      That is SO TRUE–I can’t quite pin down his voice. Sometimes I actually say out loud “WORLD WAR FIVE!” because that’s how he used to answer the phone. Thanks for you nice comment. It feels good to know I’m not alone in this giant club.

  11. Beth says:

    Bravo Cupcake, Bravo. I think I have read this like 5 times and I still get goosebumps. My father in law had dementia and I could totally relate to what you wrote. I am a nursing professor and I will be reading your post to my class when we discuss dementia and older adults.

  12. michelle says:

    Cupcake – your incredibly beautiful writing about your incredibly wonderful father just about broke my heart. We miss our fathers so much, don’t we.

  13. Riley says:

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  14. Michelle says:

    A – everytime I read this my heart both soars and breaks anew. Our fathers… how we miss them, how we love them, how we cherish them, always.

    All the love in the world to you and your sister, my soul sistas. Me

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