Without dad, Father's Day is all about memories...
It’s my first Father's Day without dad — and it’s a peculiar feeling. No family dinner gathering, no “best dad” card. Only memories remain.
Dad — Francis Y. Harada — died May 31 after struggling through some tough times.
Earlier in the month, he had been admitted to Castle Medical Center, where IVs and antibiotics “saved” him. For a month, anyway.
At 95, dad was a victim of old age. He had a strong heart, no other medical issues, and he’d wanted to live to 100, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Since mom died in July, 2004, he struggled with loneliness and companionship, and he dearly missed the home-cook meals she made. He insisted on living alone in an apartment they bought and paid for late in life, and managed to get through the days and weeks and months and years, with support from me and my sister.
He mostly lived on cherished memories.
He missed mom dearly, which is why he wanted to live where he felt her presence ...
until it reached a point where he was physically unable to get through the daily routines.
Oh, we’d go over with meals, help with housekeeping, laundry and cleaning, and retain some orderliness in his life. But he began to rely on a walker, refused to use the wheelchair we provided through his medical insurance, and it became obvious that he needed a caregiver.
Reluctantly, he agreed to move in with my sister and her family in Kaneohe last January. He adjusted nicely, but with age taking its toll, he started declining. In his last month, he had Hospice support, but couldn’t eat or drink anything because he had difficulty swallowing. That he lingered three weeks without nutrition or drink astounded the Hospice support team.
Dad was a simple man with a few words. He was never outspoken; his usual reply to a question, whether it was what he wanted to eat or what he needed from the drugstore, was “I don’t know.”
What he didn’t verbalize he “spoke” with action. He always supported the family, remembered birthdays, loved children and grandchildren, adored Misora Hibari music and TV specials, watched football religiously and enjoyed beer and wine.
When he was hospitalized for three days at Castle in May, I shared perhaps the happiest hour with him prior to his release. I had gone over to transport him to my sister’s home after his release; when I peeked into his room, his bed was empty, sending a wave of concern in my mind. So I rushed over the nurse’s station, where three of them were busy at computer terminals. I asked, “Do you know where my dad is?”
Two of them “pointed” with their heads and eyes, to the last nurse; there was dad in his wheelchair, chortling alongside the nurse.
“That’s my son — he writes for the newspaper,” he enthused, introducing me to them before I wheeled him to his room. That response brought a tear to my eye; and afterwards, he wanted to be wheeled to a corridor where he could feel the sunshine and see the mountain greenery and the hubbub of daily traffic.
He wondered about the weather, thankful for the warmth; he reminisced about people and issues regarding his work, from five or six decades earlier, and simply converted to a momentary chatterbox.
He was hungry, so we returned to his room, where his meal was delivered. By his standards, he consumed a lot — all pureed stuff, like potatoes, carrots and pudding. This would pretty much be his last meal.
Over the next week, his declining health made him a shell of a man. He uttered few words, nodded responses occasionally, and had some hallucinations, his reality blurring with his imagination.
My brother-in-law put dad’s collection of Hibari VHS tapes on the TV, which provided him a sense of familiarity; he often played these tapes over and over again while living at his apartment.
Once or twice, he mentioned mom; that he saw her; that she was calling. We told him it was OK to go see her.
But it took nearly three weeks for him to make that journey to the next world.
He is in a better place now, without pain or hunger or health issues. And he is with mom — his wish fulfilled.
He wanted private family services, so his cremated remains will be buried next to mom’s on June 30, completing his life’s his journey.
So Father’s Day is not the same. But we will properly toast him and mom with a family luncheon with his favorite food: Japanese.
Arigato and sayonara, dad, for all you’ve done for us and everyone who loved you. May you truly rest in peace, with our beloved mom.