Gaijin Gunpla

Dad

After the support shown to me on my previous post, a review/personal story hybrid, I wanted to write again and let everyone know that I was able to get to Canada and see my father.

That trip turned out about as good as it could have. The week prior to boarding the flight to Canada was a flurry of activity. Submitting vaccination proof, quarantine plan, etc to the ArriveCan app, getting the pre-travel Covid PCR test, preparing my work for my absence, and so on and so forth.

I arrived in Vancouver on November 6th and was met by my CBF (Canadian Best Friend) and typical Vancouver rain. It was great catching up with him after 6 years or so. Despite the time gone by it was like we saw each other only the day before. That helped me settle a bit and get ready to go to see my family. But first, he took me to a Vancouver Canucks hockey game, which they won.

Hopped on the ferry to Vancouver Island where my bro and sis picked me up and took me to her place where there was a bit of a family reunion. All the kids were much older and bigger, and there was a new one! Everyone was glad I could finally make it over.

I was going to see my father over the course of three days and I was really anxious. The last thing the doctor told me is what I wrote in that post about my Dad; he was in a coma, with severe injuries to his brain, and the prognosis was dire.

DAY 1, Tuesday, Nov 9th.

I waited in the hospital waiting room (after showing my vax proof which was Australian… that’s another story) while my mother went up first. Only one visitor was allowed at a time. She came down after about thirty minutes, told me where to find Dad, and up I went.

I didn’t know what to expect as I walked around the curtain that separated his bed from the others. There he lay. Long silver hair fallen behind his head. His mouth open. His eyes closed. The mark on his forehead, where he apparently hit the cupboard handle as he fell, clearly visible. He looked like someone in a coma which is what I had expected to find.

Except…

He was moving. He turned his head side to side. His hand clenched and unclenched around a squeeze ball my mother had put into his fist. He was wearing his glasses, which my mom had placed on his head because she wanted him to see clearly if, well, just because.

I choked up a bit as I started talking to him. I wanted to let him know that I had made it there. I held his hand a bit and stroked his hair. His head of hair much greater than my own. Eventually it was time to go and as I left I wanted to return his glasses to his case. As I pulled them off his face he opened his eyes. I immediately put them back on and bent over in his line of sight. I don’t know if he saw me but his eyes were open. Soon afterwards he closed them again and seemed to fall asleep.

DAY 2, Wednesday, Nov 10th.

The next day we had a meeting with his doctor. I told her that given his actions or reactions the day before I couldn’t believe he was in a coma. He would be in what is called a ‘minimally-conscious state’ She agreed with that but said that the damage to his brain from the impact of the fall was just too much and we couldn’t expect much in the way of recovery. She made suggestions about Palliative/Hospice care essentially indicating he wouldn’t make it. When she said this would involve removing his feeding tube my Mom responded with an immediate, defiant ‘No’. This all deflated me a lot and it made it harder to process what I’d seen the day before. A little later I again went to see him in the hospital and this time his eyes were open and he was looking around slightly. He turned his head when I spoke to him. It seemed he was listening to what I was saying. He was noticeably more alert than the day before.

I showed him the present I had brought with me on the flight, a stuffed koala bear with the word Grandpa on the front and a voice recorder inside of it. My kids couldn’t come with me to see him but I wanted them to be able to speak to him. When I squeezed the bear their voices came out.

“I love you Grandpa. Get better soon. We miss you.” and “Love you, Grampa!”

When he heard the voices he turned in the bear’s direction. Like I said, he hasn’t met this set of grandkids but he’s facetimed them. I think he recognized the voices. He also was moving his hands quite a lot and tugging at his hospital gown. Whether it was a deliberate action I can’t be sure. I stayed with him for a while and told him about how much I found our home town had changed.

DAY 3, Thursday, Nov 11th.

I walked into his hospital room and he was awake as the nurses had him in a sling to lift him up as they changed his bedding. He saw me as I walked in. They put him back down and I greeted him. The nurses told me he had been awake most of the morning and that he’d come a long way. He was moving his hands a lot. They had him sitting up much more than before and he was taking in the surroundings of his hospital room. I asked if the nurses were taking good care of him and he scoffed in reply. He always hated hospitals. And then he turned to me and started moving his mouth. He was trying to tell me something. It seemed important. I couldn’t catch it but I think he was asking for Mom so I texted her to come up. She did and he looked at her and kept moving his mouth. Unfortunately no sound was coming out but that could have been due to the tracheostomy he was recovering from. The difference in his condition between my first visit and the last, two days later, was unbelievable.

What a rollercoaster!

Day 1 I left the hospital feeling despair.
Day 2, after what the doctor told me ahead of what I saw from him, I left confused.
Day 3, I left feeling hopeful. The trip to Canada well worth the difficulties in getting there.

I departed the island the next day, the 12th, to head back to Vancouver and to get ready to fly home. I would spend two days, again with the CBF, watching hockey on tv and updating him on my dad’s situation. My mother continued to update me. My father was moving more, communicating more, even trying to put on his own glasses. They increased his calories through the feeding tube and he seemed to be gaining weight back.

I guess you could say it was a miracle.

Upon my arrival home I filled in my family on Dad’s condition. Continued to get updates from my mother. My father smiled when he heard my children’s voices from the koala bear. He even tried to say ‘I love you’ in response.

He was responding to my mom touching his feet. He was trying to move his legs. He was moved into his own room for more privacy and my mother was contacting the hospital liaison about getting him physio and speech therapy. He was on an upward trajectory.

And then he wasn’t.

On December the 1st Dad woke up briefly late in the afternoon and said “I want to go home”. My mom asked him if that was really what he said. He mumbled Unhuh. She asked him if he meant home to heaven. He replied the same and then closed his eyes.

On December the 2nd he was mostly asleep and was also having problems with the feed from the stomach tube coming up towards his mouth. Doctors had warned about the possibility of aspiration. He hadn’t woken that day. And wouldn’t the day after. He started to show signs of pain and was put on small amount of morphine.

My mother conceded it was time to consider the palliative care option. She told him that she loved him and was sad he couldn’t continue his life journey with her.

He would not wake up for a week.

December 10th.

I awoke that morning to a message from my Mom that Dad was gone. That day is also my son’s birthday. I quietly told my wife and then we prepared for his party and we all had a great time.

I am gutted.

I’m all over the place with my thoughts and feelings. Given my Dad’s injury his prognosis was always bleak so this was inevitable and if this terrible thing had to happen this is probably the best way for it to do so. I’m grateful that for several weeks in November, between Covid strains, international travel was possible and I made it back to see him. I took with me a letter of everything I wanted to say to him and left it on his bedside table with the koala.

My life could be cut into three almost equal parts, the 16 years or so I lived at home, the 14 years I spent in Canada on my own until moving to Japan, and the 17 years I’ve spent abroad. Not being back in Canada often I missed out on much of my Dad’s later years. I feel there are things I don’t know about him. Probably quite a lot, actually. He kept a low profile, no social media, not much use for computers, etc. and now that he’s gone I want to know more about him. I’m clamouring for as much information as I can. I just want a little bit more connection to him. I look through old photos, emails, videos, and relatives’ social media stuff to try to see if he’s there anywhere even though I know that the more I see, especially of the Dad that I remember – the younger, painstakingly trimmed facial hair version – will cause me to hurt more. But I want that hurt.

If I’m going to grieve I want to dive into it. To be swallowed up by it. I want to grapple it into submission so it works for me and not against me. I want to feel that hurt, possibly, as a way to assuage the guilt I feel about not keeping a little bit more in touch with him than I had done over the years. I waited until after my son’s birthday party and pictures with Santa this past weekend to tell my children the news. I want to make sure they know who he was. I want to share all I’ve found about him. And after I tell them about him and put them to bed, I go outside for a walk and deal with the grief. I’ve been dealing with it ever since the initial fall and devastating prognosis but now that the end has truly come I don’t know if I’m ready for it.

I won’t be going to back to Canada for the memorial service but thankfully it will be livestreamed. It will take place on his birthday, interestingly. What better day to celebrate his life.

You had a good run, Dad. I’ll try to keep up.

Categories: Builds

7 Responses so far.

  1. riccardo says:

    so sad to read this
    thank you

  2. Stephen says:

    My condolences for your loss. It was good you made it back to see him for a bit. From a random internet stranger: be well and take care of yourself.

  3. Alberto from Italy says:

    My condolences as well.

    I’m another stranger in the net who can only invite you to take care of yourself.

  4. Will Roberts says:

    My condolences friend. Been a long time reader and appreciate all you do. As another net stranger, you have my support and if ever you need someone to talk to, feel free to shoot me an email. Your dad sounds like he was a cool guy, and I hope you can find as much about him as possible, and keep him in your heart always.

  5. Darren says:

    Hey GG,

    I frequent your site occasionally to check out your guides and projects. Like most people, I quietly consume the content but rarely comment directly. Today though, I wanted to say that I found your post extremely moving – it brought me to tears several times as I read. I’m guessing we’re about the same age and my parents are at a point where something like this could happen to them any day. I’m rather introverted and don’t usually look forward to family visits, but I worry a lot about them and your post is a reminder to me to enjoy the time I have left with them as best I can.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and for showing us a bit about the person behind this excellent blog. Best wishes and deepest condolences.

  6. Ray says:

    So sorry to read about your loss, at least you managed to see him though. I can’t imagine what was going through your mind celebrating one life and mourning another. Thank you for letting us know what you’ve been going through, and sharing some of your memories in the previous review.

    Chin up, I’m sure your family will help you to stand tall and make it through.

  7. John says:

    My condolences to you and your family. At least now he’s in a better place. Regards and keep safe.

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