My father passed away yesterday. It was peaceful and my mother and I were holding his hand in the hospital when it happened. I take comfort in knowing he is at peace now. If you're wondering how or why I could possibly be writing anything right now, let alone my blog, let me just say that the reason is largely that it is just cathartic to do so after everything that has happened in the last few days.
24 hours beforehand I didn't see this coming...at least I didn't expect it to happen this day. The night before I was actually playing laser tag. I had spent early Saturday evening during visiting hours at the hospital, knowing he was going to bed when I left. That's why I arrived to tag late. By the time we left his bedside I needed a distraction that would burn some energy. I am thankful that on a Saturday night I knew where to go for this distraction. Nobody at tag knew what was going on or that running around last night was serving a way more important purpose for me than just the typical weekly entertainment. It was a necessary release. In hindsight I wonder how I could have compartmentalized this so well, but again, there was no imminent indication that he wouldn't be with us another day and I was planning a return visit on Sunday.
So much is going through my head, but I'll try to focus for a moment here on how I shared laser tag with my dad. He was 88 and blind. He had very little idea of what laser tag was all about and his sight was gone before I could share either of my websites with him to show him what it was. But when he was in the hospital at the beginning of this year I found several ways that laser tag helped me to connect with my father.
First, there was this blog. There were times in the hospital when I simply ran out of relevant words to say. So I shared stories instead. I read to my father some of my "adventures" from when I first began writing this blog. Since he couldn't see, I hoped I was painting a mental picture for him. I know he enjoyed hearing about it and I am grateful that I had something to share with him when otherwise words were lacking.
Next, there was this..."Mandarr made me apologize". Ok, I know how bizarre this sounds, but follow me here. The one thing my father wanted most in life was to have family harmony. Without getting specific, let's just say that has been difficult regarding my brother and his new wife. But here's where "Mandarr" enters the story. I became friends with the actor who played this character on the Photon (laser tag) TV series (there's your laser tag connection) and he offered me a piece of advice. "No matter what it is or what was done, make yourself wrong. Apologize to someone you didn't think you could, no matter who did what. There's power in that." Well, nine months ago I thought my father was on the verge of passing then, so I took David's advice and apologized to my brother, at least for my part in keeping the distance that had been. When I told my dad that I made peace with my brother he was as happy as I could have made him and if the end had arrived right at that point he would have at least known that. So I said it then and affectionately still say that "Mandarr made me apologize." If my father had any recollection of who this person is he would have appreciated the cute irony in that statement.
Third, my dad knows that laser tag is something I do well and I know he was proud of every accomplishment. Even if he didn't exactly "get it", he was always incredibly supportive. Two weeks ago when I was competing in Philadelphia he landed in the hospital for a short stay. My mother opted not to tell me about this until after the fact, knowing that there was nothing I could do while away and not wanting to worry me. She was confident this would just be a short stay (which it thankfully was). But after it was all done and I found out where he was and talked with them I know that, whether or not he really understood what I was doing, he was happy I was off doing it. My dad always favored hitting the open road for an adventure. :)
My father is the greatest man I have ever known and I don't know how I will handle the next few days. But I will end my writing here knowing that laser tag (loosely) played a small part in what I could share with my father towards the end of his life and for any such part I am grateful.