These past few years, few people came to visit. Friends and colleagues dropped away as Dad's dementia deepened; even those in the organization he had helped found, Science for Peace, rarely came by. And the work he did at the university to set up an undergraduate program in peace studies and to establish a chair in that field would never, it seemed, be recognized.
A few months ago, it seemed that my father was going to fade away unremembered save by those of us who loved him most. Now we're wondering if the room reserved for the memorial is big enough.
That's been the experience, over and over in various ways, during the months of planning for this gathering at the University of Toronto.
On the phone a couple of weeks ago, my mother Connie told me that her sister had offered to take any family in town out to dinner. “Then I told her how many were coming—“
I'm in Toronto visiting my mother and getting ready for a major gathering at the University of Toronto to honor my father, so I won't be posting much this week. Still, I couldn't resist trying to describe yesterday's weather.
—and determined to stay here this time.
I want to thank everyone who responded to my post about my dad's death; I appreciate hearing from each of you.
My prolonged absence from the blog this time (sigh) has been due in part to my having come down a week ago with a wicked cold, the sort that makes you sleep eighteen hours a day and wish you could sleep twenty-four. But there's another, more cheerful reason: I've started another blog, which has been taking most of my writing time: writinglandscapes.com.
My dad, in July of 2009, when he was 82.
Another long interruption in blogging. Another death. My sister Susan died two and a half years ago. This December, on the Wednesday before Christmas, my father died.
Connie, my mother, had called me that Monday to report a sudden decline over the weekend: Friday Dad could walk a kilometer, over half a mile; Saturday he couldn't stand up.
On the phone, Connie and I went back and forth about whether I should fly out next day and decided it would be better to wait. More than likely Dad would linger on; more than likely there'd be greater need next week or next month. The staff at the nursing home, downstairs from Connie's apartment, had dozens of stories about residents who'd lived for months after such setbacks, and as far as Connie could tell, without eating. When Con had asked one of the most trusted nurses whether they should start palliative care, Amelia had laughed and said she didn't think it was time for that quite yet.
That was Friday. But on Saturday he couldn't stand. Amelia was off that weekend. When she came back on Monday evening, she was shocked. It was time, she told Connie. Time to start palliative care.
On Tuesday, Connie called me again to say that Dad was worse. I booked a flight for the next morning. He died while I was en route to Toronto.
Couldn't he have waited, just a few hours? But he didn't know I was coming. Couldn't I have taken a flight the day before? But I didn't know he was dying.