But once I got to the library one of my staff told me to call my sister right away. I did and sister told me, in a sober voice, that "Daddy had an incident this morning."
"At 20 to 10, right?" I answered.
"Yes and we have an appointment with hospice at 2:30"
He was still alive, but only barely. They had removed the Oxygen Pump Of Torture to feed him a little applesauce and instead he began to suffocate. Vital signs plummeted. The full force of the medical establishment leapt into action and he had rallied but I knew. Sister knew. Daddy probably knew too.
I went ahead and held the Story Hour, then went home to pack. BD was confused and frustrated because he, of course, hadn't felt that tearing sensation - and though in more sober moments he trusts my antennae, in a crisis, he must fall back on the Haile Mathematical Mind. We are what we are and I am an iNtuitive, Feeling Perceiver. He is a Sensory, Thinking Judge. Different Gifts.
There was a terrific rain storm as I hit the city limits. (What I wouldn't give for a terrific rain storm today ... Daddy? Can't you talk to the weather guy?) My memory of that day was of all grey colors - the grey sky, the sandy grey look of the hospital, the dusky light in the atrium. Sister and I chatted with the hospice nurse. "You're positive you want to do this?" she asked. We both answered "We love him! Would you make your daddy live like that just so you could keep him near?"
"They'll come for him" the nurse told us.
I thought she meant some different part of the hospital staff. "The doctors?"
"No. 'They' will come. He won't go alone. I've seen hundreds of these passings and sometimes I've even seen 'Them'." she told me in a dead serious voice.
And they did. About an hour after he had sunk into a medically induced state of non-anxiety he suddenly sat up and began talking to someone at the foot of his bed. Then he lay back, sank into sleep, and then slipped away for the last time.
It was his and Mama's 65th wedding anniversary. Imagine that. I miss him almost every day, though the dragging downer feeling has lifted some. I know, having had to bid both a beloved father-in-law and a most precious mother-in-law goodbye, that the ache will lessen as the warmth of the memories grows. Oh - yes - sometimes the missing hurts - but it's always that good sort of hurt that makes you glad - like when it was time for a baby tooth to come out and you'd nudge it till it tore a little. You knew it was time for something new - time to step into the next stage of life - or, as in the case of death, time for the first stage of what comes next. I am sure it will be wonderful since everything I've had so far has been so wonderful.
In fact, one of the wonderful things that comes next is the next generation of children stepping into the world of grown-ups: To grow up, to graduate, to marry. Today we will celebrate at a wedding of young cousins who are starting out on their own Next Stage. How special that it will happen on the anniversary of a marriage that lasted for 65 years. I wish them the same - or better! I suppose every day is some sort of anniversary of someone's momentous first step into the unknown. In fact - today will be a step into the unknown for us all. May it be a marvelous adventure - for the bride and groom, for the greater family, for each and every one of us.