You don’t know what a soul is experiencing as you pass their vacant expression. I was in shock, I had received a tragic call.
I was in a gondola heading to a clinic that rainy Sunday, but my cell rang twice, catching my attention. My gut sank. Via voicemail, did my Mom say dead?! Their dane barked the same instant masking the important word. My hands shook fumbling the phones functions. I struggled to enter a password, was it true? Was my Dad dead? No!
In shock, I dialed our home number, digits of 38 years. My brother answered, his tone said it all. He said there was no rush. My focus was logistics, I needed to get to the ER two hours away, but couldn’t drive in ski boots. I de-booted and walked to my car in a daze. Looking at the beautiful mountain, I pushed play on a queued song reminding me of impermanence.
It was shit conditions. I couldn’t see through fog, tears or winter rain. Sickly similar thirteen months prior when my Dad had his first heart attack. This was me again, alone, driving with horror in my heart, hands at ten and two. Tears streamed down my face, I was stuck behind a slow car. Didn’t they know?
You just don’t…
My brother called, his voice reiterated my fear, our new reality. He asked me to pull over. “No, don’t tell me,” my body screamed. I heard our new truth crossing rumble strips on the side of the road. Our Dad was gone…
You don’t know if the car on the shoulder just received devastating news.
My brother said to take care, and asked if I wanted to see him to say bye. A forever goodbye? I wasn’t ready for that! We were not the Hallmark duo sharing Folgers in morning sunlight, but this was my Dad. I didn’t want to say bye, I woke up to ski.
His heart stopped after running on the treadmill. He had fallen and fractured his skull. Could I stomach seeing him? I didn’t care, I had to.
My belly churned with diarrhea. I felt sick, but found a gas station with a man waiting in line. I almost told him my situation to go first, but it wasn’t right to play that card, nor the morals Dad instilled in us. Wait, there would be no more lectures, or lessons? Staring at extremely large print; YOU MUST BE A PAYING CUSTOMER TO USE THIS RESTROOM, added to my sweats. I looked around for what I could possibly purchase at such a time. There stood a bottle of wine. Could have been any bottle, there are millions. This label read; Dads Day Off.
You just don’t know…
My Mom had been driven home without her husband for the first time in 47 years. I’m unaware how to comprehend.
I pulled into the ER. My brothers stood beneath a rainy awning, waiting. Waiting to embrace. They were my rock, that was love.
They asked if I was ready, if I wanted support. I felt ill, I needed a toilet and tissues. I didn’t believe it, I had to face it alone. Utilizing every ounce of courage, I followed the nurse through two enormous doors. There lay my Dad, stiff, cold and dead. He had his sneakers on, which made me smile uncomfortably. He died following the Cardiologists’ directive. His bruises broke my heart. Time stopped. I walked up to his chest, cradled my arm over his, sunk my head down and lost it. My Dad was dead. I was touching his dead arm…
He looked peaceful without glasses, mouth ajar like he used to joke. The room looked like the movies. So much plastic, so many shelves. The clock read 11:44 in bright red font. I received the call just three hours prior, minus a minute. When you have one final chance, what do you say more importantly than, “I love you.”
He was really gone. I kissed his cold cheek goodbye, took one final look at his face. It was the last.
I walked out in shock. My brothers held me. What is one supposed to do next? My sister was en-route.
We followed each other home, my brother needed fuel. You don’t know when a man pumping gas just said goodbye to their Father.
Those windy roads took a lifetime. Our caravan pulled up to our childhood log cabin. We walked to the porch, and embraced our Mom.
That empty greeting; “How are you?” makes one want to vomit when grieving. It’s a stupid question to have to answer, but I wouldn’t have known…
So you comfort your Mom, sleep where his presence surrounds, and try to get through the very next hour.
That selfie you took before Star Wars on Christmas Day would be your very last photograph together…
You just don’t know…
12.25.15 Final Photograph