Warning: This blog post will be very long and there’s talk about death and dying. Please take care of yourself and don’t read this blog post if death and dying make you uncomfortable or trigger you.
First of all, read this blog post (and the update if you read the post before my update). It will give you a better background on the cause of my sudden trip.
Franklin got a call saying that his dad was about to go into hospice. Franklin decided he had to fly down to Florida to see his dad. He told me he had to fly down and there was discussion about me going as well. So he talked to my mom and when I come home from work, mom talked to me and I’m starting the packing process. That night, Franklin booked a flight. We flew to Florida Thursday morning and returned Monday afternoon.
Thursday, February 22nd
I wake up at 6:25 AM because Franklin is picking me up at 7 AM. I text my friend Marc to wish him a happy birthday and I get ready for getting picked up. After saying goodbye to my dad (my mom spent the night at my grandmother’s house so I said goodbye to her Tuesday night), I’m on the way to the airport. When we get to the long term parking area, I hand Franklin his birthday gift since he said he will open the gift the day we leave for Florida. I got him a sleeveless exercise shirt since he’s built muscle since we first started dating and I thought he’d like to show off his arms. We get our tickets and go through the TSA checkpoint. Uneventful. We check what gate we have to go to and our flight is delayed. At some point, my boyfriend checked something on Google and it said our flight status was unknown. Uh-oh, not good. I see some rocking chairs located by a window with a good view of planes taxiing to and from the gate. I go over to the chairs and focus on the rocking of the chair. It helped to calm my anxiety and I returned to the gate to once again sit with my boyfriend.
We fly to Orlando where Franklin’s uncle picked us up. I have a headache that doesn’t go away until later that night (later learned that you can get dehydrated on planes). The ride takes about an hour and a half from the airport to Franklin’s dad’s hospice house. We are warned that he looks rough, but the warning doesn’t prepare me from seeing how he looked. I have seen pictures of Franklin’s dad, but this man who looks to be asleep does not look like him. He seems to notice me in front of his bed and he “wakes up” and responds a little. He only responded to my presence and Franklin telling his dad that his birthday is the next day. We don’t stay at hospice long. We go to Franklin’s uncle’s house and since the only thing Franklin and I ate that day was our snack on the plane, Franklin’s aunt makes us a snack. We are given a glass of water, a container of yogurt and a plate filled with apple slices, a little bit of peanut butter, four crackers, and four pieces of cheese.
We are taken back to Franklin’s dad’s house, where we are staying during our trip. Franklin and I decide to unpack our things and rest before we go out to dinner since my headache is still there. I lie down on the couch while Franklin does something I don’t remember. We get into Franklin’s dad’s Subaru Outback and drive to Pasta Faire and have dinner with Franklin’s uncles and aunts. Near the end of dinner, I see our waiter gather the other waitstaff in a line. He walks into our section of the dining room and makes a birthday announcement. Turns out Franklin’s aunts and uncles surprised my boyfriend with a slice of birthday cake. The waitstaff sang “Happy Birthday” in Italian and they sang so loudly that my fading headache returned. The headache eventually went away.
Friday, February 23rd
It’s Franklin’s birthday. We celebrated the day before since we felt like we wouldn’t be able to celebrate today. We’re not here for a vacation. Today’s breakfast is the leftovers from last night’s dinner. After we eat our leftover and drink water to prevent me from getting dehydrated, Franklin goes to his dad’s room to start finding paperwork that he, his uncle, and aunt will go over just in case his dad passes. We set a time to go visit Franklin’s dad and we run late because Franklin is still finding all the papers. We are about to head to the hospice house when the hospice nurse calls. Franklin’s dad hasn’t been responsive today. When she said that, Franklin and I put our shoes on, grab our things, and drive to the hospice house.
We see Franklin’s dad look like he’s gasping for breath. The nurse meets with us and Franklin’s uncle and aunt join us at hospice. Franklin is hoping that his dad wasn’t expecting us to come back the prior evening and he told me to not blame myself (probably because of my headache that lasted a long time) I’m struggling to keep it together because I’m afraid that Franklin’s dad is going to die on Franklin’s birthday. I remind Franklin to tell his dad he loves him and I go outside to call my mom. I beg her to pray that Franklin’s dad doesn’t die today (and this is a big thing if you know my religion… none). I’m crying on the phone.
Many many years ago, my cousin’s favorite grandmother passed away on his birthday and I’ve seen the mental health effects from that happening to him. I was worried that Franklin would become self-destructive as well. People said that he won’t do that because he’s been deployed overseas before, but a death of a parent is going to affect you regardless of whether you were in the military or not.
Franklin comes outside to check on me while I’m still on the phone. Mom talks to him on my phone and we stay outside for awhile. We eventually go back in and Franklin makes his brother call him so their dad can hear his younger son’s voice. I meet Franklin’s dad’s ex-girlfriend and she tells Franklin’s dad everyone who is here. She called me Miranda, but Franklin corrected her. I found out Franklin’s dad was so excited about wanting to meet me. A few minutes after Franklin’s brother tells his dad that he loves him, the time between each breath gets longer and the nurse comes in wanting to give him more pain medication. We have her wait some more time. Then a few minutes after she leaves, Franklin’s father took his last breath. A couple of people can still feel a pulse, though. The nurse comes back and turns off the oxygen (I think Franklin’s uncle told the nurse that he stopped breathing). She feels his pulse. She listens to his heartbeat. She puts her finger under his nose to feel if he’s breathing.
“He passed.” She says. (Or she said “He’s gone.” I don’t remember what she said)
We all start crying. I cling to Franklin and say that it wasn’t supposed to happen on his birthday. Franklin’s crying and he said this will make us (our relationship) stronger. I’m worried about Franklin. People start going outside to make phone calls. I give Franklin a few minutes alone with his dad while I attempt to call my mom again. The family once again makes sure I’m okay. We all leave the hospice house an hour after his dad’s passing and I ask Franklin if he wants to find a hotel for the rest of the time we’re in Florida. He said he should be fine, but we can if I don’t feel comfortable there. We go back to Franklin’s dad’s house and it felt creepy to pull into the driveway of someone who will no longer live there.
We took some time to rest and per the urging of Franklin’s uncle for Franklin to take me out somewhere to get our minds off of what happened, Franklin figured out what to have for our late lunch. We used up the rest of my Panera Bread gift card and went to a beautiful outdoor shopping area called Spanish Springs. We saw a golf cart being pulled over, which was kind of funny. When the sun set, we went home and I called my mom asking for advice on how to be a good emotional support person. I never had to fill that role until this Florida trip.
Saturday, February 24th
We go to McDonald’s for breakfast because whenever I had to go to North Carolina for a funeral when I was little, my family would always get McDonald’s for breakfast. I order a sausage biscuit and two hash browns while Franklin orders a sausage burrito and a steak, egg, and cheese biscuit. His uncle meets us at McDonald’s and gives Franklin a folder containing the will and a few other papers. We went back home for a little bit before Franklin’s cousin came to visit with his wife, two sons, and fluffy white dog. We all went out to lunch together and then Franklin needed to sign some papers at the retirement community where his dad lived. The three of us then went to the funeral home.
After picking out an urn, we went back to Franklin’s uncle’s house. The uncle, the aunt, the cousin, his wife, and the cousin’s kids went with me and Franklin to Franklin’s dad’s house since Franklin’s cousin hasn’t seen the house yet. The boys kept wanting to touch things and the youngest son kept picking up the three-pound weight on the dresser (it must have been for physical therapy. My dad has three-pound weights from when he did physical therapy after shoulder surgery). Because the boy kept calling the weight “the six-pack thing”, I would never think of the word “weight” whenever I saw the green weight. When we visited the community center, I became sad because the next night would be my last night in Florida and the town is so beautiful.
When everyone left, I gave Franklin a chance to let his feelings out. He shed a couple of tears and said there was a lot of love in the room when his dad passed. I hug him and remind him that I’m here for him, which is what mom suggested I remind him. I let him have some time to himself so he can do homework while I watch the sunset on the screen-covered porch. I take my iPod with me so I can watch a couple of episodes of Daria that are on my iPod to keep myself occupied. I read some fan fiction and enjoy the nice weather outside at night. Franklin makes some pasta salad from a box his dad has in the house and brings it out on the porch so we can eat dinner together. After dinner, Franklin gathers all the paperwork his dad had and organizes them so he and his uncle can finally go over the paperwork. There were also pictures that needed to be organized. Some pictures will be used in the mass in Florida, some pictures will be returned to family members, and Franklin will keep a few pictures for himself. As much as I want to help, I let Franklin touch all of his dad’s belongings. From an outsider’s perspective, I am a stranger in his dad’s home and some people don’t like it when other people touch a family member’s belongings. Franklin forewarns me that I will be ignored for a bit the next day since he will be busy. Franklin and I stay awake for two additional hours just talking.
Sunday, February 25th
We go to Franklin’s uncle and aunt’s house for breakfast. We eat a Belgian waffle with a choice of strawberry slices, blueberries, banana slices, syrup, and whipped cream for the toppings and sausage and/or bacon. After eating breakfast, we watch some home movies that were filmed before I was born. When Franklin’s dad appears on screen, everyone was talking loudly so I can’t hear his dad’s voice. It bothers me because I have never heard Franklin’s dad’s voice before and this was my only time. It is now time for Franklin and his uncle to get to work. Some family members go to this one market, but I decline going because I promised myself I’d stay with Franklin when he would do anything related to things that needed to be done after his dad’s death. Franklin’s aunt shows me a couple of books that her daughter wrote, so I decide to read “The Golem Factory” (side note: I highly recommend the book “The Golem Factory”. I read the whole thing and it was really good).
Franklin and his uncle eat lunch, but I don’t feel very hungry. Later, when the family members who went to the market return, all us women play mahjong. It is completely different than the version that is played online. It is difficult to understand at first, but I am able to get the hang of it. When Franklin and his uncle finish organizing the paperwork and figuring out which companies need to be notified of the passing, Franklin and I get into his uncle’s golf cart and Franklin drives me around part of the retirement community. I feel like we’re an old married couple and I hope we become an old married couple.
We return with the golf cart to Franklin’s uncle’s house and I finish the final pages of “The Golem Factory” while we figure out whether we want to join his family for dinner or go out to dinner on our own. I want to go to Red Robin so Franklin can redeem his free birthday meal, but I tell Franklin that it’s up to him (throughout our time in Florida, he had to be the one to make decisions regarding his dad and his dad’s things, but I wasn’t sure if I should dictate the choice between our last meal with his family). His uncle suggests that we go out on our own. I think his uncle wants me to do something that isn’t related to family matters. We say goodbye to his aunt’s husband since he’s flying back home the next morning and we drive nearly half an hour to Red Robin.
We get to Red Robin and because of where we’re seated, someone has to get napkins from underneath the booth seats. We are given a voucher for a free appetizer from the $5 appetizers category, a free dessert, or a free Monster Milkshake. After dinner, we to Family Dollar to pick up sympathy cards so Franklin can deliver pictures. We drive back home in order to do a little packing and Franklin called his dad’s phone so I could hear his dad’s voice when the voicemail came on. I call my mom to see which of the toiletries I bought for the trip can be thrown away.
Monday, February 26th
We are flying home today and Franklin’s uncle is picking us up at 9 AM to take us back to the airport. Franklin wakes me up at 5 AM and despite my best efforts, I give up on going back to sleep. Turns out to be a good thing I couldn’t go back to sleep, because Franklin’s mind started processing that his dad is gone. I roll onto my back and hold him while he wonders if this is really goodbye (I don’t know if he means goodbye to Florida or goodbye to his dad) and he tells me that he feels like he cleaned his dad’s car too quickly and that the Green Bay Packers items gave the house personality.
After letting out emotions, Franklin gets post-it notes to leave instructions for what to do with the items being left behind while I prepare to take my shower. Once I’m clean and dressed, I pack up the rest of my things for my flight home. I remind Franklin to take his shower since his uncle was picking us up in an hour. Fast forward to when his uncle gets here and the women I played mahjong with (Franklin’s aunts and one woman I don’t know how she’s related) came into the house to clean up the house. I hug everyone goodbye and we set off to Orlando for our flight back home. Franklin reveals for the second time that day that writing on the post-it notes to delegate where his dad’s things will go was harder for him than the duties he does as an officer in the National Guard. Once again, my thumb takes the role of designate tear wiper.
Franklin has to check a suitcase with some of his dad’s clothes in it. Some clothes fit Franklin so he’s keeping those. Other clothes are being donated, so they stayed behind in a neatly-folded pile at his dad’s house. We grab something to eat and water to drink. I don’t want to get another headache, especially since I planned to go to kickboxing that evening. Our flight is on time and despite some turbulence on the flight, we make it back to Maryland safely. Oh, and I see a guy at the airport in Orlando who looked exactly like Franklin’s dad.
We go back to my house where I get changed into exercise clothes and pack my gym bag. The day before, my mom and niece baked Franklin a cake. Since Franklin’s birthday was three days prior and his dad passed on his birthday, we couldn’t sing “Happy Birthday”. Mom started singing “Franklin, you are amazing!” over an over again while dad and I just looked at each other. Franklin tells me that he hopes what I went through with him doesn’t cause me to need therapy, and I told him I might go to a couple of meetings for a grief support group depending on how I feel. After making sure he’d be okay with me going to kickboxing (since I wasn’t sure if Franklin being alone would make him really think about his dad’s passing), we leave my house. I go to kickboxing and Franklin goes back home to finish up his homework. This is now the first time we’ve been away from each other since Thursday morning before he took me to the airport.
What did I learn?
So what did I learn from this farewell trip? I learned how to be someone’s source of emotional support, I learned to set boundaries for myself (the boundary I set for myself was to not touch Franklin’s dad’s belongings when organizing things unless I’m told it’s okay), and I learned that I want to check baggage next time since it felt like such a struggle to put everything in a carry-on bag when I typically check luggage. I am hoping that watching Franklin’s father passing will help me learn to let things roll off my shoulder. I hope to learn how this experience is going to make Franklin and I stronger as a couple.