My sister-in-law had just had a phone call from the paramedics. Dad was en route to St. Joe's. He had called 911 just a short time before, saying he was short of breath and not well. By the time the EMTs reached him he was unresponsive and had been oxygen deprived for much too long. He was alive, but just barely. They found Dad's phone and called one of the last numbers in it, reaching my brother and sister-in-law.
We had just had one of the nicest holidays I could remember. After my little "incident" two weeks prior, things were actually looking up. The entire family was at Thanksgiving; Mom and Ray, my brother and his family, our dear friend Eric, Kate and her new boyfriend Mike, and Dad. It was happy. It was fun. An early snow had threatened the day but everyone trudged out despite the snow and ice. Dad commented how nice it was that we were all together and spending the day with each other. He told me how much he liked Mike, and how Kate seemed to be really happy with him. The dogs ran around and played with everyone. It really was a perfect day. If I had known that was the last time I'd see my Dad awake and alert, the last time I'd talk with him or hug him...
|I got the curls from Dad.|
The next time I saw Dad, on that Black Friday morning, he was strapped to a gurney and having his core temperature dropped in an attempt to save his brain. They were inducing a coma and he may or may not wake up...but it was the only real hope we had at saving him. At first I really thought that everything would end up fine; Dad would wake up in a day or so, we'd chastise him for not taking better care of himself, and we'd take him home. The man was only 57. I was only 28. That's entirely too young to lose your dad, right? He still needed to see his grandsons grow up. He needed to see Kate get married and have babies. He needed to see me do something worthwhile with my life, to make him proud. As we sat there in the ER listening to the doctors give us a very grim prognosis, I couldn't help but feel that my issues in the 2 weeks prior had contributed to Dad's heart attack. I'd stressed him out too much, I'd added to his already overtaxed system. I know he wouldn't want me to think that, but that's something I'll always live with.
The weekend before Thanksgiving Dad came over to my and Kate's house to have dinner with me. Those that know our family well will not be surprised that we had nachos (which were awesome, by the way. He taught me well.). We laughed and talked about celebrity gossip (Dad was always well versed in it) and I played some music for him that I thought he'd get a kick out of. I also sat down and helped program the new cell phone my brother and sister-in-law had purchased for him. Sometimes I got so frustrated with Dad's lack of technological know-how, but I showed him how to use the basics and programmed important numbers in. We talked about my car and he asked if I needed any parts. He said he'd bring the needed wipers and air filter to Thanksgiving. Later, after Dad had passed and we were cleaning out his car, I found the bag with the parts that he meant to give to me. He always thought of us and made sure we were taken care of.
I'm so grateful that we had that Thanksgiving together. I thank God all the time that he gave Dad that one last holiday with everyone. I'm grateful too that my dad loved me enough to come see me when I was in the recovery center, and that he called me everyday for the two weeks after to check up on me, and how he actually talked about my situation instead of around it, like so many other people were doing. At one point he said, "Steddie, just promise me you'll talk to me if you ever feel that way again." I promised him I would.
But two years ago, we lost him. He was there physically in that hospital bed, but Dad was gone. At first there was the glimmer of hope that we'd get him back but as those 12 days in the ICU wore on we began to face the facts.
I'd like to think that Dad could hear us when we were in the hospital with him. We talked to him, and laughed, and told jokes, and cried - shit, we cried - and played his favorite music, and we prayed. I hope he heard when we told him how we loved him. But if some of his last cognitive thoughts are from that Thanksgiving, then I'm ok with that. The part that eats me up is thinking about how scared he must have been calling 911 that morning, and how he was alone. There were times when I was alone with Dad in the hospital in the week and a half following that I told him I'd do anything to take his place. How I wished it was me in that bed instead of him.
My dad was the sweetest, kindest man. He was a friend to everyone and rarely had a bad word to say about anyone. He was funny and goofy and he never made me question his love for me. All he wanted in life was to see us kids happy. He had been dealt too many painful blows over the previous 10 years or so, including losing his own Dad only the week before. It was so fucking unfair.
Time has a way of flying by. It blows my mind that it's been two years since I last talked to my dad. I'm starting to forget what his voice sounds like, and that scares the shit out of me. The last two voicemails he sent me are saved on my computer and I play them periodically just so that I'll remember his voice. I keep his glasses in my glasses case. The blanket on my bed is the one my old boss made for him when he started dialysis. I'm clinging to some small hope that by having these pieces of him here with me, he is here with me.
Dad would be so proud of all of us. How smart and clever his grandsons are. Kate's wonderful job and her upcoming wedding to the man of her dreams...who Dad only got to meet that one time. Eric's success in his career. And his middle child, his sensitive child...she put her life back together and is happier and healthier than ever, living 4000 miles away and making the most of this precious life.
Two years ago today, I lost a piece of my heart that I'll never get back. Dad, I hope you're rocking out in heaven. We miss you more than words could ever say.