Losing my father was an abstraction until now. I’ve sent my share of heartfelt sympathy cards to friends whose parents passed away, but only now is it possible to prepare for my own inevitable grief. I am confronted with a nightmarish scenario: My dad is in a nursing home, bedbound, blind, dying a slow lonely death due to congestive heart failure and complications of diabetes, but I can’t be there with him. I can’t hold his hand to comfort him or play CD’s of his favorite Beethoven symphonies. I can’t listen to him recount the stories I’ve heard him tell a million times or laugh at his corny jokes as I had always planned. Why not? Because I am too ill to travel cross-country due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Even a brief phone call with him exhausts me.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome makes a difficult situation unbearable. It is a cruel twist of fate to be so incapacitated that I cannot be present to help care for the remarkable man who loved his children unconditionally. Dad worked three jobs so that my siblings and I could get a college education. He never complained. He always offered encouragement and gave sage advice. From day one, dad put us first, and yet due to a common little-known incurable mysterious illness, a perverse illness that drains me of all my energy and keeps me housebound, I cannot hug or kiss him one last time before he crosses to the other side. It torments me that I cannot say goodbye to my beloved father in person or attend his burial.
I told dad that I wished I could be there to help him and he replied, “I wish I could be there to help you.” Selfless to the end he is, and I will miss him terribly.
Lisa Freundlich has been disabled from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for seven years. Prior to her illness, she worked full time and was extremely athletic and active. Lisa was born and raised in Portland, Maine. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband. Her short fiction and non-fiction pieces have been published in Foliate Oak Magazine, Phoenix Rising, and Presidio Sentinel, among other publications.