Monday, March 1, 2010

My Son's Father is Dying

Monday, March 1, 2010
This afternoon, I visited my ex-husband, who’s a hospice patient at a hospital downtown. My heart is breaking for him, whose life is being so cruelly cut short; for his wife and for our only child. This man, who, at 6’5”, towered over everyone else in the family, looks pale, too thin and at least 10 years older than his years. It hurt so much to see him that I almost looked away.

Just before I got to the hospital, the nurse had given him pain meds and a sedative, so, although he tried to respond to our words, he couldn’t. Garbled sounds escaped from his throat, as his eyes floated open and closed. My son, brother and sister were there with me, and tears were in all of our eyes. We touched his arm hesitantly, because the cancer that’s consumed his body makes touch painful. We said gentle, loving things to him. And we mourned, even though he’ll be here for a few more days or weeks.

Being a hospice volunteer, I comfort family members of patients all the time. But I don’t know exactly how to comfort my son, who never stopped hurting over the divorce when he was only five. I tell him he can talk to me any time, day or night, if he needs to, but he holds back. Maybe he thinks he has to be strong for me, while I think I have to be strong for him. I was the same age as him when I lost my mother. But I had four sisters and four brothers who shared the pain and agony with me. My son is alone. I just hope I can comfort him enough, while giving him the space he needs to grieve in his own way.

In the meantime, I want to visit my ex again. Although we couldn’t live together, I never stopped caring for him. To me, he became almost like another brother. And, because one of my sisters married one of his brothers, our families are permanently intertwined. My preference would be to see him for a few minutes with just my son there, like we did today after my brother and sister left and before his wife arrived. For a few precious minutes, we can pretend our little family never split in half and that we never broke our boy’s heart.


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