I have a little secret, in a way, that I've been keeping from my husband. Have I mentioned it before? I don't think so.
After my dad died, I was the only one willing to go through his things. I was actually very close to my dad, or at least as close as a person could get to my dad. He was a very introspective, reserved, intelligent guy, and I wish I had taken the time to really speak with him during the last few lucid years of his life. I always thought I'd have more time, you know?
He was an older father, he divorced his first wife and then remarried my mother and had children unexpectedly. (Ironically, my mother had been told she couldn't get pregnant, and then had identical twins - my sister and me - followed soon thereafter by my brother.) It was a time in his life when he should have been expecting only grandchildren (and in fact he was already a grandfather to my older half-sisters' kids). When he was young, he fought in World War II. He went to both Berkeley and Stanford, and worked for some of the major tech companies in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley. I'm sure he had a lot of interesting stories to tell that I never got to hear.
When I was in college, a couple hours away from my parents' house, my dad elected to have surgery to insert a stent into an artery near his heart. I don't know a lot of the details of the procedure or what happened next, but I do know that hours after it was supposedly successfully complete, he went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain damage. After that incident, he began suffering from vascular dementia, which is similar to Alzheimer's disease . He lived for 6 more years, gradually getting more and more difficult to take care of, more forgetful, and eventually he needed constant care so he wouldn't hurt himself or anyone around him. It was really sad to watch, although it made his death less painful because he had been sick and not really himself for so long.
I am grateful that I spent a lot of time with him in his last few years, even if he didn't always seem to know who I was. I visited him at his nursing home and frequently took him out to lunch. I helped arrange for him to come home for visits, especially for holidays. Even though my husband never met him when he was still lucid, I am so happy that my husband regularly came with me to visit my dad and spend time with him.
My sister spent quite a bit of time with my father as well, although she seemed to be too uncomfortable to really do things with him like I did. My brother NEVER visited him in the nursing home except for very rare occasions such as holidays. He's also never been to the cemetery since the burial four years ago.
When I was going through my dad's things with my mother a while after his death, I found a t-shirt we bought him when we were little kids. It's black and it says "Best Dad in the World" in kid-style writing. It was like a connection to my childhood and the feelings I had for my father. I took it home with me and hid it, hoping to give it to my husband at some point during my surely upcoming pregnancy (when I tell him I'm pregnant? First ultra-sound? On Father's Day? So many possibilities! or so I thought). I thought it was such a great way to share a part of my life that my husband was never able to experience, because my dad died when I was so young.
I still have that shirt, hidden in my closet. I hope the moths haven't gotten to it by now. I really, really wish that I can give it to my husband some day soon.