Slipped Away

Three years ago today, I was woken by my a phone call from my mother.

“Daddy had a tough night. I’m going to see him this morning; you should come when you can.”

I told her I’d be there as soon as I could. I picked up my three-month-old son from the spot in bed next to me, and carried him downstairs to wait.

The details of this morning have been muddied by time. Were both girls home, or had they gone with Fairly Odd Father to the airport? He was picking up his parents and his brother who were arriving to spend Christmas with us. Despite my dad’s illness, we were excited to have them visit, knowing that their presence would liven up our home.

Our home had been sad because my dad was dying of colon cancer. For six months, he had been hospitalized, and all hope of him returning home had been abandoned. He had lived through a few milestones: the Red Sox finally won a World Series; he had met his first grandson; he knew that my younger sister was pregnant with her first child (as I reread this, I realize that the Red Sox should probably have been listed third. . .).

My in laws loved my dad, even though they’d only seen him in person a few times. They were happy that they’d be able to wish him a Merry Christmas and spend a few moments with him while they were up north.

The minivan filled with family returning from the airport. We all hugged, and I passed around the newest Fairly Odd Family member, little man D. I showed them to the guest room, and walked them through the recently completed renovation of our master bedroom and bathroom.

At around 9:30am, I strapped D into his car seat, kissed my family goodbye and was about to drive to the rehab center where my father was waiting. As I went to sit behind the passenger wheel, my husband entered the garage and walked up to me.

“Your sister just called. Your dad just died a few minutes ago.”

And, so, that was that. I never did get a chance to say goodbye, to watch his last breaths or to hold his hand as he slipped away. This plain fact hurt a lot right then.

Now, three years later, I think about my dad just about every day. I tell my kids stories about him, show them photos and sing his favorite songs. I even let them listen to those godawful Christmas songs by that over-the-top, maybe-not-even Russian group because he would’ve loved to hear that playing loudly throughout the house.

His life was about so much more than his last minutes. Yes, I would’ve liked to have been there. But, in a way, it has made me realize that rarely do we have a chance to say goodbye to the people we love before they, or we, die. Regardless of how much I try to organize, plan and create the life I want, the biggest part of it, the life part of it, is really not in my control at all.

(for photos and to read more about my dad—or “Daddy”, as I called him— please see last year’s dedication).

(also, I will never stop telling people about the importance of getting a colonoscopy, especially if you have a family history. I’ve already had one, and you can read about it here and here).


  1. AnotherMomCreation says

    I’m so sorry for you right now. I know this time of year is bittersweet.

    Lots of love to you and your family

  2. as you basically said, life goes on, and it is something we simply can’t control.

    however, you have the right idea. Celebrating life, instead of mourning death, is the way we should think of our loved ones who have moved on. i feel lucky to have met your dad on a few occasions.

    my grandfather passed away this past summer, and he was no doubt the patriarch of a large, stereotypical jewish family. but his memory will live on with someone else re-telling his bad jokes at the passover sedar, with him complaining that it’s taking too long for the thanksgiving turkey to cook, and so on.

    (also, you linked to TSO – they are definitely not Russian, and are, in fact, the current incarnation of 80s hair metal band Savatage (…

    …for a photo of them in their hairy grace, check it here:

  3. Thinking of you…

    You’re giving your children a very precious gift by helping them to know their grandfather and keep him as a part of their lives. My husband doesn’t talk very much about his parents and I worry that my children won’t feel that connection.

  4. I’m so sorry. Losing a parent has to be so hard, especially to have that memory each year during the holidays.

  5. And another hug from me. He sounds like he was a wonderful man. My grandmother died right before I was born and I feel as though I know her, through all of the stories my mother told us about her. Your children will grow up feeling like they “know” their grandfather too, through your stories.

  6. Mrs. Chicky says

    I’m glad you realize it’s the life, not the death, that’s important. I’ve been there with my mom and I still try to forget about that moment and concentrate on her life when she was healthy.

    I’m thinking of you on this difficult day. If I could drive on down there and squeeze you, I would. Consider this a virtual squeeze.

  7. Oh, The Joys says

    I know you must be missing him this week.



  8. What a nice tribute to your Dad. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a parent but I know it must be terrible. I’m glad he was here for so many great things though.

  9. Blog Antagonist says

    I’m sorry you’ve lost someone so precious to you. I can’t imagine losing a parent, much less at a time of year that carries so many memories. He would be glad to know that you choose to remember his life rather than dwell on his death.

  10. These are always especially hard days for me. I think of him every day, but can’t seem to forget the feeling of his last winter days. He was always so glad to see us, even when he felt horrible… and somehow always made me laugh and able to appreciate each day.

    Even though mom and I were there for his last moments, and I’m glad that he wasn’t alone, seeing him slip away will haunt me for the rest of my life.

    And while he dug the TSO, it’s the Manheim Steamrollers he really loved. He had a great taste in music– until it came to Christmas!

    Merry Christmas, Daddy. May you be enjoying a viciously-spiked eggnog and a plate of homemade spritz cookies.

  11. That is so sad that you missed your chance to say goodbye.

  12. Oh and TSO rocks – we went last year to a concert but didn’t get a chance to get tickets this year. We are definatly planning on going next year and maybe even bringing our 7 year old -she LOVES TSO.

  13. I send my hugs, too. And my thanks, because these are words of comfort for all.

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