Fuck, it's been a whole year already. A year ago today Dad checked out, finally succumbing and ending his misery, almost 48 hours after he was unhooked from the machines that were performing the functions his body would/could no longer perform for him. Almost 48 hours of silent, non-responsive being on a steady dose of morphine every hour or so, just existing with expressions of discomfort and sheer terror painted on his face, waiting for his last breath to come and go. He wasn't a great man, shit, he wasn't even a good man, but he was still my father, and a human being, and he deserved much better than that. We treat our fucking animals with more dignity and more humanity at the end of their lives than we do our loved ones.
Three hundred and sixty-five days later I still haven't been able to reconcile my decision not to be there when he passed. When he was declared terminal, I decided I didn't want him to die alone, so I would stay through the night and be there with him. No one should have to drift away without the presence of loved ones, I figured. I wouldn't want to die by myself. It seemed like sound reasoning at the time. However, late that night, I became extremely anxious, and began to reconsider my stance. I didn't know how witnessing his passing would emotionally/psychologically affect me, and if it would prove to be too much for me to get over. So I weighed the two against each other: him being spared of the horror of dying alone, vs. me being spared the the trauma of watching him die. I tried to imagine what he would want, if he would want me to be there with him or if he would rather me avoid the baggage that would come along with it. I couldn't come to a reasonable deduction about what he would want, so I went with what I thought was best for me, and left.
And ever since, I've regretted not being there with him. I did what I thought was in my best interest, over what I thought was in his best interest. Which in hindsight seems extremely selfish. And is a painful, festering sore on the wound of his passing. I was an immature, selfish prick, once again disappointing him, which I did my entire life up to and including the day he died. (At least I was consistent.) And he left this world in a room all alone, no one there to comfort him, hold his hand, be there to bid him farewell.
And when I received the call at 4:25 a.m. last year informing me of his passing, on my birthday, it was the gift I wanted most: for his suffering to be over, and for him to be out of his misery. It was a blessing. This year, not so much. One's birthday is to be a day of celebration, but I just can't. Open cards, blow out candles, wear a stupid-fuckin' party hat? How could I do that on the anniversary of his death? Now I catch myself selfishly wondering from time to time, why couldn't he have died five hours earlier? It's not intentional, I don't want to be able to turn my frown upside down at 12:00 every year, switching from grieving mode to party mode. I just can't help but wish I didn't have to grieve on my birthday every year. Or wonder if he held on until my birthday to stick it to me one last time, for being the disappointment I was to him as a son. Regardless, I can't help but feel selfish about this too. Which just really ties this whole day into a pretty bow of shit and tears and fucked.
Happy birthday to me, rest in peace, Pop.