The Looming Transition: Telling Dad How We Feel

nat 1I’ve been quite consumed with a huge transition taking place in my family. Our patriarch, Nat Hartshorne, is in hospice and battling lymphoma, and we’ve been visiting and calling and trying to imagine our lives without Bumpy, who has done so much to make each one of us proud, and who has always shown an interest in our lives.

It’s pretty hard to find a person like that, who even when they are 91, still wants to know all about how my business is going, or how another person’s mom is doing, or a hundred other little questions about lives that many people no longer want to hear the answer to.  Bumpy and Vally, my parents, have never been that way. They are always engaged and want to know all of the details. It’s very appealing, and it is just one of the reasons they count so many people as friends.

But it’s hard when you’re at the point of hospice… don’t want to entertain people who want to come and see you. And despite the sincerity in their voices when they ask, it’s still too much to fit in and too hard.  So I had to tell some of the relatives that they couldn’t visit, it was not really an option, and I felt bad but I think they understand.

I am not well-prepared for losing my dad. I haven’t experienced much in the way of death, I don’t know the pain of the acute loss of family members. I worry, often, that I won’t react the right way, that I won’t appear to be sorry to have lost dad. But anyone will tell you that grief has no gameplan, no script, so I just have to take it as it feels to me.

It’s been interesting and wonderful to read and hear how other people are reacting to Nat’s hospice stay.  My daughter Kate Hartshorne published a blog about him that was both touching and well written.  It’s hard at this stage to write a tribute because then everyone thinks he has already passed away. He hasn’t.

My parent’s old friend Shep Brock sent a letter that my sister read during dinner last week that perfectly summarized what is it that makes Nat so special to so many people. I am very glad that Dad got to hear that letter written instead of hearing it only at the funeral.