On January 31, I got the phone call that you always dread, at the what I’ve been dreading for nearly 10 years- that call at 4 in the morning. Long story short, I learned that my father had died. As Daniel and I got ready to fly from Minnesota to Michigan, I left a text with John Paulson just letting him know I wasn’t going to be at church this Sunday. I don’t know what all John did, but he was able to marshall the forces of the church to make sure church went on smoothly. Retired Pastor Paul Ficzeri preached in my stead.
My Dad had been in declining health for years. Congestive Heart Failure and COPD wore him down. He entered the hospital on New Year’s Day with really low blood pressure. He was taken to a transitional care facility to recuperate and hopefully get well enough to go back home. His time at the facility wasn’t easy. Unlike other hospital stays, he wasn’t bouncing back. I had started to think he might end up at this facility permanently- something Mom had wondered as well.
He actually was feeling better the day before he died, my Mom said. She offered to stay the night, but he wanted her home. A nurse came into wake him up on that Saturday morning to get him ready for the day and he didn’t respond. Dad had died in his sleep after 85 years on this earth.
Grief is something that always fascinates me. I’ve always wondered how different folk grieve a loss. I’ve also been interested in how someone on the autistic spectrum mourns. People might think that those on the spectrum don’t feel anything, but the fact of the matter is we feel a lot.
My sign of mourning is a physical one: I feel what I can only explain as a heaviness of heart, as if my heart is crying even though I’m not visibly crying. I felt that way a few years ago when my Uncle David died, and I felt it again when my cat Morris died a few months later. When my other cat, Felix died a year later, the heavy heart was there again.
Over the last week, I noticed that my heart was truly heavy again. I might not be crying up a storm, but my heart was…is weeping for my Dad.
I share this because we all do grieve differently. For some grief is a slow process and for others it’s “faster.” Some people cry visibly, others cry in secret. Those of us with Aspergers also grieve in ways that might seem odd, but it is grief.
I miss my Dad. I think that my heavy heart will come and go for a time. But a smile comes to my face as well: my heavy heart is a sign that I am truly human after all.
Note: The top photo was taken by my husband, Daniel shortly after we arrived at my parent’s apartment. On one of the bed posts were my baby shoes. This is what Daniel wrote on Facebook describing the photo: “A father’s love for his son…hanging on his father’s bedpost are Dennis’ childhood shoes.”
The bottom photo was taken with my Dad in November 2013.