Monday, May 27, 2013

A Year Ago, My Father Passed Away

My father died a year ago today.  In preparation for this anniversary, I have spent the month of May collecting my thoughts about.  The sentences in this entry deserve to be tortured.  It is the least I could do to honor my father's memory.

I will first say that the following thoughts are disjointed and a little on the frank side.  I have thought a lot about my father since he died last year.  Perhaps, more than I ever did while he was living.  I suppose this is because it is easy to think of him in now the abstract and in a sentimental manner.   My sister did say that she didn't want to end up like him, but felt like she was ending up like him anyway. I have to admit that I have similar feelings.  Dad was not a terrible man, but he wasn't successful in the ways the world defines what a successful person should be -- he wasn't rich and never could afford to take a vacation to Florida or Hawaii or Vegas, and he drove a lot of crappy cars.  I am well aware of the good that was in him and how he gave his three children a proper childhood, and that as a father, I will probably fall short of what he did for me when I think of what I will be able to do for Tony....  My Dad did volunteer to help in the community -- something most Chinese would never do.  Anyway, there is your evidence of my disjointed thought about Dad, and that is why I this piece about him will be in bullet form.  I can't think of how to make a coherent essay about him.

I still mourn his death.  Whether it is healthy or not for me to do this, I can't say.  Hopefully, I never get over it.  One of few goals in life -- how my goals diminish as I get older and resigned to not accomplishing them -- is to get back to Brandon and visit my father's gravestone.  It wasn't ready when I left Canada.  I have just seen photos of it.

I hope he is in a better place.  That he would be in oblivion seems such a monstrous proposition that, even if it is true, it is not something to be hoped for.  The fact that he is gone and I can't, in this life, ever speak to him again sometimes gives me an sharp ache and a pang of pain that could only be assuaged by there being an after life.

The photo of him with me and Tony brought tears to my eyes when my wife showed it to me earlier in the month of May.  I am happy I was able to have a grandchild for my father, but alas, I did it so late in life that the photo above is one of the few images Tony will ever have of himself with his grandfather.  [My father did say I made a good choice in having a wife.  "Jenny," he said, "Has more sense than any of us!"  Jenny was the one person by his death bed who told him not to die unlike the rest of us who were waiting for Dad to go.]

When told that his days were numbered, my Dad took the news admirably.   He calmly accepted the news and only asked that the fact that he was an artilleryman in the RCA and his Latvian heritage be put on his gravestone.

The fact that he died while I was on a visit to Canada last year was ________.  [I don't know what word to put in that blank.]  His death fit into my schedule quite nicely.  The first week of my three-week trip, he died.  the second week, we had the funeral.  The third week, we could go through his stuff.  His death solved the dilemma of what I would do if he died while I was in China.  [I say these things because it was true and I can't shake the shame of it.]

When I first came to the hospital last year, I saw my father* before I was quickly, with my brother and mother, taken to see the doctor who told us that Dad's prognosis was not good.  We were given the choice of keeping him on the meds, which the doctor said were only delaying the inevitable, or taking him off them.  Having been so far away from Dad in his final years, I felt I didn't have the right to have a say in the decision.  I was also horrified by the thought of how it would fit into my schedule.  I shirked it.  The decison was made to take him off.  I felt impotent and weak and cowardly as I never had before in my life, as I just let it happen and thinking how I should be saying:  No! Let him live as long as possible!

[*What took you so long to get here? was what my father said when I saw.  How true.  We lingered a little too long in Winnipeg before we came to Bransdon to see him.*]

I hoped by having Tony  and thus giving my father a grandson that I would somehow redeem myself with respect to my father.  Alas, I didn't see much of him in his last years, and I didn't phone him as much as I should have.  It does let me off the hook somewhat to know that he was the most avid reader of my blog, and he was constantly printing out the photos I published of Tony and Jenny.

My father was a lonely man for the last years of his life.  He stayed in Brandon and was reluctant, out of pique or principle, to visit the relatives in Winnipeg.  By his thinking, Winnipeg was a big city.  On the scale of things here in China, he was so wrong, and yet I find myself aching for small town quiet that he espoused and I initially rejected.

My father was a supporter of Socialism; I was at first, but then wasn't.  Dad, I could say, was earnest in his Socialism and Leftism, and was not one to smarm and smirk like present day leftists do.

My father was a Leafs fan.  [I suppose I could say that it was good he wasn't alive to see the Leafs blow it in 2103.] He tried to make me one when he bought me a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, but for whatever reason when I began to watch hockey, I became a Montreal Canadiens fan.  I should have mentioned that in my funeral eulogy last year -- the acknowledgment part.  One of the last bits of current news we talked about before he passed away was the NHL playoffs.  The Kings were the finals, he knew.  However, he didn't survive to the end of the final.

As I was saying, my father was a lonely man.  On the second last night of his life, I lay in a bed that was put besides his in the hospital room.  I recall that the noises of the machines startled him and that also several times through the night he picked up the phone, like he was expecting a call.  From whom?  I wondered.  And why?  I always have these strange fantasies, despite knowing full well that they couldn't happen and I should stop having them, of some sort of Angel or figure coming and sympathizing with my plight.  I wondered if my father had the same sort of need.  As far as I know, the angel never called.  But then we maybe see them in the afterlife.

It runs in the family.  The loneliness and the forced reclusiveness.  But there can be no doubt that modernity had an effect on our family too even though we were as plagued as many other families by modernity's terrible ravages such as divorce and drugs and Materialism.

Father was born at a time and a place when momentous historical events were taking place.  The Germans and the Soviets  were at war, Jews were being exterminated, and his native country of Latvia was right in the midst of it.  He and his family fled the Soviets and eventually came to Canada  Thinking about that, one can understand his wanting to live in a small and seemingly boring place like Brandon.

What my father religious?  The Salvation Army volunteer at the care home where he spent the last month of his life, said he was attending services on Sunday.  Perhaps, hedging his bets he was, but it was good that his funeral did have a religious aspect to it.  Father & I unfortunately never talked about our religious views.

Below are photos taken in the Care Home my father stayed for the last month of his life.

This is the memorial that was set up for him:

The second was taken in his room.  His life was on that bulletin board.

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