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One Last Father-Daughter Outing?

Here's to all of the "last time"s

Dear beautiful friends,

Last week I was in Arizona with The Originals—my mom, my dad, my brother, Michael and me. It was a sweet, comfortable time, amidst the prolonged Question of the Moment:

When is Dad going to go?

As much as I’ve been surprised by this phase of my dad’s life, and our ego-less, innocent interactions, the affection and delights, I’m getting impatient. We all are. The suspense has dragged on; the waiting is hard on my mom, who’s ready to kick start the next chapter of her life (which is cool when you think that she’s almost 90 and excited for what’s next).

We’ve had a lot of “last” visits. Maybe some of you have had your own stories of “lasts.” Three summers ago, my brother and I left my dad’s adult family home, wondering if this was it. I can still hear Michael saying, “Bye, Dad,” when the door closed behind us, in a way that suggested its possible finality.

And here we are. September 2022, three years and five months since my dad went into the adult family home, and onto hospice.

Here’s what we know about my dad’s health: blindness from macular degeneration, dementia, and some failing organs. The hospice nurse said to us in June, “I can’t believe he’s still here.”

“He’s a tough bugger,” I sighed. My mom rolled her eyes.


“I think Mom wants us all to have one last time together, with Dad” I said to my brother in August. “Again.” We chuckled.

And then last week came. For three days, my mom, Michael and I roamed around my parents’ Scottsdale house, claiming the furniture and art we wanted, reading the paper, sharing meals, and combing through old letters and documents. We took morning walks, and five o’clock pool dips. My brother cooked barbecued lamb chops, grilled eggplant and green beans, fruit salads with mint, poached eggs topped with avocado. My mom and I licked our fingers.

We visited Dad.

Day 1:
Just Michael and I went. Dad had red circles around his eyes, neck drooped against his chest. We greeted him, he perked up. “Ah, yes. Sweetheart.” He made a few verbal acknowledgments. Then went silent. I played his favorite opera songs on my phone (Don Giovanni; Marriage of Figaro); we took turns holding his hands, and rubbing his shoulders.

As I poked and prodded his body, feeling his thinning outline, I noticed something odd: his forearms were elephantine. “What the hell is going on here?” I said to Michael. The caretaker told us it was a sign of kidney and heart failure not flushing things out. Finally, I thought, he’s closing shop.

It’s strange to admit that when I’m in Seattle, away from my dad, I think of being with him. When I am with him, I grow restless and think about leaving. I used to want my dad to live as long as possible Now I’m cheering for him to go, to embark on what I call “his next adventure.”

“One more song and then we’ll go?” I asked Michael.
“Shall I take a photo of us?” I wrinkled my nose.
“Absolutely not.” Michael reached out and jabbed Dad’s extra chin flesh, covered with stubble. “He’d hate to be photographed with his second chin.”
On the way out, we filled our pockets with European candy from the candy bowl.


We’re a pretty straight-shooting family. Not super sentimental. Practical. Laugh easily at inappropriate times.


Day 2 visit: My mom came, and the four of us were together. My dad sitting up in his bed, the three of us sitting around in fold out chairs. Here we are, I said to myself, all together, maybe for the last time. I waited to feel a swell of something. Nope. Nothing. I did, however, enjoy the fact that we were all together and how easy it’s been to be a family sharing our lives. For the most part.

Dad’s forearms were only a bit puffy today. I pulled back the blankets to have a look at his feet, which were so swollen you almost didn’t notice his toenails (never his best feature).

“Hey Mom,” I tapped her, “if you think dad’s feet were bad when you married him, check this out.”

"Oh Tatyana,” my mom grimaced. Michael laughed. My dad would have laughed, too. He had a wonderful sense of humor: smart, sly, well-timed.

I covered his feet beneath blankets, turned on some Barbra Streisand, and snapped photos of Dad holding everyone’s hands.

Day 3: Father-Daughter day! Michael left that morning. When I’m with my dad alone, I feel like I can venture to conversational edges I don’t with my mom and brother. I ask if he’s ready for the next adventure; ask what he is waiting for; take him through life events, memories, and his accomplishments.

There’s a lot of “Is that so?” and “Ah yes.” Does he track? Does he remember? I don’t know; I don’t think so. Does it matter?

When I arrived, he was sitting up in his bed with his eyes open.

“Hi Dad,” I said sinking my hands into his shoulder and kissing the side of his head.

“Sweetheart.” He answered. “Sweeeet-heaart” is how it comes out.

“How are you?” There’s a pause. I’ve learned to linger in these pauses; it takes him a while to answer and I don’t want to miss what he has to say.

“I’m great.”

“You are?” A ten-second pause.

“I’m having . . . so . . . much . . . fun.”


It was strange, but during this visit, as I told my dad that mom would be moving on, and be well taken care of by her loving family, I felt like I was accepting an inheritance, a legacy: as the eldest child, I would “see to the family.” I wanted him to know that his beloved sweetheart, his darling wife would be taken care of. I wanted him to know it was time for Mom to move on, to be around family, and he was free to go.

Over the last few years friends have asked me, “What’s he like?” A lot of us are comparing stories; many of us have aging parents; there are plenty of minds on walkabout, and we’re comparing experiences.

Here’s what my dad is like:

Beautiful. Magical. Surprising. Tired. Sleepy. Out-to-lunch. Drunk-ish. Funny. Still teaching. Generous. Tenacious. Stubborn. Loyal.

I included a video for you to see for yourself. (Click the video at the top of this email/page.)

I am sharing my story so we can get closer to end-of-life without the fear, without resistance. I am sharing my story so you can see the beauty in all things, even the long process of losing a once-strong and brilliant parent. I say this as someone who’s had a life-long fear of death: thinking about something is worse than living it.

Here’s to living, all the way up to the very edgy end. XO


The Salon for Beauty Hunters is back, and we’re going to put our attention on Humor, Play & Fun. Imagine if that sweet trinity made it to the top of your to-do list?

We gather in my Zoom room on Fridays, starting October 7, 12 - 1 pm Pacific USA time, and go until the first Friday of December.

More deets at Join a Salon!, at Everyday Creative. XOXO

Beauty Hunter
Beauty Hunter
Tatyana Sussex