I used to think it was only me. Not surprisingly, given my penchant for catastrophizing, I'm pretty sure that I was the only one who routinely (as in every single time I walked away from him) wondered if the last goodbye I gave my dad would be the last goodbye.
I would watch him waving from the window as we'd pull out of the driveway, and want to curl up in a ball and cry, sick with worry and despair.
In my defense, he really is that sick. Has been for years. First a bum ticker (with a 1998 cardiac arrest thrown in for added excitement), then diabetes, and now end stage kidney disease on top of everything else.
But, by some miracle, he's still here.
In lighter moments I joke that he might be immortal. Because honest to God, I've never known anyone this sick to continually battle back from the brink. And there have been so many brinks over the past 26 years since his first heart attack; so many times the situation looked dire, only to be turned around by the smiling Irishman with the big laugh and twinkling eyes.
But this time it's different. He's fighting as hard as he can, but I know in my heart that there is well and truly not much time left.
And now, I think, so does he.
There is more weight in his hugs. They last a fraction longer. They are tighter, despite his frailty.
It startled me on Saturday. We had everyone over to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday, and as they piled out the door with presents and leftover dessert in hand, I hugged him goodbye and told him I loved him. And he held on. And squeezed.
And in that moment, I knew he knew it too.
I know what he was saying with that embrace, and I closed my eyes against the truth and hugged him back, willing it not to be our last goodbye.
Willing time to stop and love to cure and hope to best inevitability.
And then I did the only thing I could. I let him go. One more time.