In my parent’s backyard, I fumbled trying to light the outdoor fireplace that often goes unused.
Chairs placed in a half-circle, blankets on standby.
It was the day before New Year’s Eve and I was trying to create ambiance.
I’m not sure why I felt unusually anxious.
I just wanted this moment to feel…
If I can’t take Dad outside to experience all that life has to offer right now, I will bring an experience to him.
These ‘December with Dad’ updates began after my original post in the private Facebook group, ‘Coronado Happenings.’
I had inquired about unique, non-tourist ideas in San Diego for Dad and I to enjoy together while taking a month off from work. I was completely taken aback by the response of generosity from strangers and the personal, ongoing connections that ensued.
One Coronado Angel, Jeremy Cooke, reached out saying, “I play Christmas violin to raise money for after-school programs at my school. I can play for free if that is something your Dad would like.”
With my parents each serving in education for nearly 40 years, this was something we were absolutely on board with supporting.
I never expected anything complimentary throughout the month, rather, access to experiences we otherwise wouldn’t know about.
These were some of the amazing activities we had lined up:
⭐️ A hot air balloon ride
⭐️ Sitting in an F-18 flight simulator with a former aviator
⭐️ A ride along with the police department
⭐️ An evening painting at a local art gallery courtesy of the gallery owner
⭐️ A private invitation to an SDSU basketball practice thanks to Steve Fisher (former head coach at my alma mater U. of Michigan and SDSU), along with Matt Soria (Assistant Athletic Director at SDSU)
⭐️ A behind-the-scenes tour of the Hotel Del Coronado with a visit up to the iconic turret
⭐️ Calming, gentle horse therapy on a ranch
⭐️ A private Duffy ride around the Coronado Cays
⭐️ Sailing on a 40’ Tiara Sovran boat
I knew we would eventually invite Jeremy to our home to play the violin if things slowed down, although I had hoped it would happen much, much later.
Dad’s life is an hourglass and the sand is flowing so fast now.
Upon messaging Jeremy with an open 3-day window of time, he said he would come over that same day.
“Does your Dad have any favorite songs?”
“He loves The Beatles and anything from the ’60’s. Of course, Christmas music works well if none of those are options.”
Jeremy requested another 30 minutes to learn songs from the 1960’s.
I was blown away.
He’s dropping everything to learn new songs to play for strangers.
I’ve been consistently amazed by the beautiful humans introduced into our lives right now.
This past week, Dad has been asking us to take care of random tasks.
Tying loose ends.
Crossing t’s and dotting the i’s of life.
At one point, he whispered to me, “We are what we leave behind.”
Jeremy seems to already have an understanding of that.
A Math and Guitar teacher at Grossmont High School, he mentioned that he found out a fellow local musician had lost his job of 17 years at a restaurant during Covid and ended up homeless in his car.
Feeling called to help, Jeremy set up a GoFundMe page and raised $30,000… for a stranger.
Angels are among us.
It was the first day of chilly sunshine after a gray week of rain.
The kind of day where you raise your chin to the sky and feel a glowing warmth.
We all swayed to ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and ‘Help Me, Rhonda.’
Barely saying more than two-word sentences all week, during ‘Hey Jude’ Dad actually tapped his knee and silently mouthed the words.
“Hey Jude, don't make it bad.
Take a sad song and make it better.”
I guess that’s what I was trying to do in December…
Take Dad’s sad song and make it better.
It was the most he’d been outside in a week, and the entire experience was PERFECT.
As a bonus, it was a musical treat all of his caretakers were able to enjoy…
A brief respite from the responsibilities of sustaining someone’s life.
Me, Mom, Dad, my brother, and his wife – collectively feeling JOY from one of life’s most beautiful gifts… Music. 🎵
And my husband, at home with our three young children so I could be fully present without worry.
As they say, “It takes a village.”
After Jeremy left, we stayed outside for a full hour going around the circle sharing about our favorite concerts throughout the years.
For Dad, (in no particular order) it was Cyndi Lauper, Rod Stewart, Cher, and all-day concerts in the ’60’s.
He only spoke about 20 words in that hour, but he listened…
He breathed in the crisp air.
He was there.
It takes me hours to fall asleep these days.
Yet my eyes feel so tired.
I close them and each thought chases the other in a loop.
His frail physical appearance imprinted on my mind.
Knowing he is here today.
I’m trying to go with the flow of it all.
“This is just life,” I remind myself. “This happens every day all over the world.”
This is my DAD.
He’s very short of breath these days.
When my kids are short of breath after being upset about something, I place one hand on their heart and one hand on mine, slowly breathing together.
My pace transfers to them.
Sitting by my dad’s side, I had this notion that if I placed one hand on his heart and one hand on mine while breathing slowly, maybe it would have the same effect.
But I can’t hold my hand there forever.
At some point…
I have to let go.
My dad didn’t take a sick day from work in 39 years. He never needed to. To watch someone in perfect health with dreams of living to 107 be physically wasted down to nothing is…
And maybe it should be because I am forever changed…
My perception of life is clearer.
I have a greater appreciation for human fragility.
Wishing someone “good health” has taken on an entirely new meaning beyond a nice sentiment.
Maybe that’s why I’m meant to witness this with my Dad… because it hurts more. 😞
To remind me that I’m not invincible.
Cutting this DEEP is what makes it unforgettable.
The last few weeks have been rough.
Lots of time in bed, wincing as he repositions to prevent bedsores. Encouraging him to eat and drink to meet his goals, learning about every type of pain medicine, daily visits to the pharmacy for this or that, sharing video messages from family members, asking stories about when he was younger…
It’s a little strange thinking of your parents as someone who had a life before you.
My Mom and Dad are very different from each other despite being together 50 years.
FIFTY. YEARS. ❤️
I asked him what he loves most about Mom.
“Girls I had dated before we met were always trying to get away from family. She wasn’t like that.”
“She’s always been someone I can count on.”
Last week, my dad was confined to a bed upstairs and was told by his palliative care doctor it’s time for...
(Whispering because I can barely say it)
For months, my brother has been trying to get him transitioned to a different medical provider where the impression was that his new doctor had not written him off.
We were forced to wait a week for that transition to occur between Christmas and January 1st.
His first appointment is today, and the day could not come fast enough.
Realistically, it does not mean the outcome will change, but it has been a revelatory experience to witness what is possible when someone has HOPE.
A one week period of watching him endure…
A one week period of “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
It’s a roller coaster managing feelings of Hope vs. Reality.
Are we in denial?
Don’t answer that, I don’t care about the answer.
After all, this is not just a random patient, it’s my DAD.
The one who stuck post-it notes on my bathroom mirror when I was a supremely awkward teenager to remind me I’m beautiful.
The one who refinanced his house so I could go to college out of state.
The one who genuinely cared about listening to every random thought, joy, complaint, excitement, and loss that I’ve experienced throughout the years.
Always writing me notes, always lifting me up.
He was there.
Lately I’ve been contemplating my Dad’s ‘lasts’ while my three-year-old is experiencing many of her ‘firsts.’
She is saying more words, Dad is saying less.
She is learning to eat more foods, Dad is barely eating anything.
She turned 3 last month with her whole life ahead of her, Dad just turned 73 with nearly his whole life behind him.
In this first week of the New Year, maybe that’s what this is all about.
Reflecting on the past.
Hope for something bright.
At his request, Dad’s support team is in the corner taping him back up and sending him back into the ring.
It’s the final round.
We’re rooting for you, Dad.
I’m here… Just like you’ve always been.
For Music, Family, and HOPE… Feeling Blessed & Grateful ❤️