if he could see me now

I'm on a train, rolling through the outskirts of Maryland, making my way home from D.C. This would have been the better option for my arrival too. Instead I took the bus, emerging looking as if I'd been on a fishing trip. My jeans tucked into forest green galoshes, and a navy slicker thrown over my arm since it was raining when I left New York.

Normally the planner, I hesitated making my travel arrangement to Eat, Write, Retreat. Something was gnawing at me every time I thought about getting to D.C.

I love flying, but in this case it wasn't the sensible choice. So that left me with two options—the bus or train. Neither appealed, so I just left my plans until the last minute.

I still hadn't figured out that feeling. The underlying reason why this choice, an easy one compared to so many others I've been up against in life, was paralyzing.

After a five and half hour bus trip to get here, I decided my hard work deserved a reward—a comfy seat, reliable wi-fi and the opportunity for hot coffee. I booked a ticket on the 2:20pm train back to New York. I went a step further and even popped for a business class seat, figuring that would make the trip less daunting.

The 2:20pm wasn’t meant to be. Rather than wait an hour for the next train, I upgraded to the Acela. I promised the girls a kiss goodnight, and those are the kind of commitments you try to keep at all cost.

I started thinking about the upside to missing my original train. It meant I had a few more minutes with Shauna and Domenica. I got to spend some time getting to know Joe. All in all, it was worth it, the delay a blip in my life really.

As I settled into my seat and stared blankly out the window, it hit me. Suddenly, the reason why I hesitated for so long was clear. The last time I took a bus trip was to see my father. I’d found out he was dying from pancreatic cancer.

The last time I rode Amtrak was when I left him at the hospital, with the promise to return a week later. The doctors said he had two to six months left, and I’d planned to take a leave of absence from work, and stay with his wife and daughter in Pennsylvania until the end. We had so much lost time to make up for, having not spoken for five years.

I got a call three days after that last train ride. My father was in a coma. There would be no last kiss. No final hug. Instead I would have to settle for a 27 hour vigil, watching his glazed over pale blue eyes lost in space. Tiny breathes slowly gasping past his lips. He had a DNR, so all I could do was watch. Make sure he wasn’t alone.

I felt the moment of his last breath, watched as a peace washed over his body. I waited a moment before calling the nurse, his wife and my mother. I had shared him long enough, and decided that was going to be my moment alone.

As I sat on the Acela this second time around, I struggled desperately to fight back tears. Fearful what other passengers would think if they saw me in such a state. Then no longer able to be strong enough, a tear trickled down my cheek. I missed my dad.

Then I realized something even more heart-wrenching—I’d never cooked for him. He walked out of my life when I was 15, on the cusp of my awareness about food and dabbling with the enjoyment it could bring. The trickle that clung to my cheek became a downpour, and I gave into the moment. A spiritual person might believe he is looking down and knows the woman I’ve become. Since that’s all a grey area for me, the reassurance simply isn’t enough. Today there is no recipe to share. There is just a memory, and the promise of kisses that I have to keep.

I’m coming home girls.


  • Jessica

    Chills. This is heart wrenching. I’m so sorry you never had that time with your dad.
    BTW, this is my first time visiting and I love your blog. Looking forward to reading around more.

  • merry jennifer

    It’s amazing how something ordinary can trigger such an emotional memory. Sending you lots of hugs, Jennie. Wish I could have spent some time with you this weekend.

  • Yvo

    Thank you for sharing. I lost my dad four days after I turned 20, and though my experience differs drastically from yours, in the end the sentiment is the same: we both miss our fathers. Sending virtual hugs.

  • Aviva Goldfarb

    Jennie, those moments of sadness for people we have lost are so powerful and sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere, and never at the right tie. I hope your spirits were restored after having a good cry. Glad I’m not the only one who has emotional outbursts in the strangest places, though.

  • Robin (Hippo Flambe)

    I was just reflecting tonight as I prepared dinner that my mother never really got to experience my cooking. She got to experience some of my early interest, a time when the kitchen would look like a bomb went off in it after I left and things did not always work out at planned (http://blog.hippoflambe.com/2010/09/pumpkin-pie-with-no-roll-crust.html)
    What that really means is I never got a chance to know my mother when I was an adult, my relationship with her never moved on. I am sorry for the loss of your father. Love your girls and always remember promises about goodnight hugs are important.

  • Genevieve

    Sometimes you just have to let those tears flow, and to hell with the onlookers! I lost my father when I was 14 under very different circumstances, but I can so closely identify with the loss you’re feeling. It’s the loss of what might have been–not what actually was–that stings the most. The unmet potential for love just wrenches at you–I’ve still not figured out how to let go of that. Maybe we’ll just learn how to make it a manageable part of us.
    I’m a longtime reader of your blog, and I love it. Thanks for doing what you do!

  • melissa

    Thank you for sharing your heart…I am glad you had the time with him, even if it wasn’t the way you planned. ((hugs))

  • TheFiveFacets

    He knows, Jennie…he knows…
    What a beautiful touch your have given to something that pains you… I’m thinking you might want to cook a meal for hime, now, and enjoy as if the two of your were sharing it…not quite the same, but who knows what resolve you might dish up…

  • Aggie

    You have completely brought tears to my eyes this morning. Not saying a proper goodbye is something some of us have to live with unfortunately…its not easy. But I am so sure that your daddy is in the kitchen with you every single day. And smiling.
    Beautiful post.

  • Julie

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have not seen my biological father since I was 12 and the feeling of not having a father at all is not easy at that age. {hugs} to you!

  • Ethan

    Thanks for sharing Jennifer. Hope the girls gave you a big hug when you got home.
    On a positive note, it was so wonderful meeting you this weekend. Now I know what makes you so special.

  • Megan

    Thank you for sharing this very personal story with all of your readers. I’m sorry you couldn’t spend more time with your father before he passed away, but I believe he is looking down on you now. <3

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    I am so sorry for your loss! The father/daughter bond is such a strong & natural one. It is so essential to the proper growth and nurturing of a young girl growing into adulthood. It is essential, and yet so many of us were cheated that experience.
    I too lost my biological father when I was just 6 yrs old and didn’t reconnect and meet him again until I was almost 17. Those essential years you can never get back, and for a young girl finding her way it can be devistating.
    I feel blessed beyond measure that my 3 girls have a wonderful daddy. My husband is the father to our girls that I had only imagined.
    Again…I’m sorry for your loss. I haven’t lost my physically yet, but my adopted dad (stepdad who adopted us) has early onset dementia at age 58 and is slipping away from us bit by bit. He’s the man that raised me, and though not affectionate or demonstrative with love…he was a good provider and gave us a stable home life. He has no memories of the majority of it. It’s sad!!

  • S E davis

    I never rarely ever leave comments but this post was impossible to leave without telling my story as it so closely parallels yours:

    When I was 26 years old my mother died of colon cancer. I had 2 little girls, 2 and 4, and a husband with a birthday on June 25. Mom had developed colon cancer the September before. I had seen her at Easter and Dad had told me NOT to come again as it would bother her. Then all of a sudden I got an urgent call from Dad saying why aren’t you here? The doctor told me over the phone just the week before that she probably had 6 months to live, so I decided to stay for my husband’s birthday and leave the next day. I took the train to from NC to FL, although I can’t remember why I didn’t fly or drive. When I arrived the night of the 26th, Dad had told me to make arrangements to stay at my friend’s home. And then the news. It was from my friend’s mother, not even my own father. Mom had died that morning at 6:30 am and I had waited that extra day or two to celebrate my husband’s birthday.
    I could say I was an only child or my Mom and I were incredibly close, or my Dad was really possessive of her at the end. This is all true, but there is really only one thing that matters for me. I know that I will see her again because Jesus rose from the dead to live forever, the first, for the rest of us to follow. Many have risen from the dead only to die again. She knew that without a shadow of a doubt and thanks to her, so do I. Bless you Jennie and your precious daughters. Mine are now 31 and 29 and still very very precious to me. Thank you for this precious blog.