August 24th, 5:38 am I got the call. My phone was plugged into the charger in the kitchen, 2 rooms away. I never hear my phone ring when I’m asleep, but I did that morning. Most likely because I was subconsciously waiting for it. The sun was 20 minutes from rising. There was enough light coming into the house that I could run full speed to the kitchen without stopping to turn on any lights.
Maybe it was a telemarketer or the nurse telling me there’s been a change and I need to come quick. I could handle that. That… that I could handle. Or maybe it was later than I thought and it was just a normal call. I glanced at the stove top clock and in glaring bright green letters was the time. 5:38am. Oh no. I still clung onto there was a change or a telemarketer until the number looked vaguely familiar. Ok, maybe there was a change and I needed to come see my dad quick, I was ready to do that. I could change in less than 3 minutes and be there in 30.
My father’s death would be officially documented at 5:20am, actual. I still have some questions around that and I”m not sure if I’ll call the nurse back to ask. I still haven’t and this was 5 days ago.
That conversation, her gentle tone, the long pauses are forever burned in my brain. It was the moment that changed my life and completely put a giant gaping hole in my heart. I’ll never forget it. I write about that conversation in detail in the letters I’ve been writing to my father that I’ll one day pass onto Jackson. But, for now, that conversation is personal. It’s also something that I doubt I can write about without completely breaking down into an oblivion of tears.
I hung up the phone and distinctly remember trying to walk back to my bedroom to wake my husband. I only made it about halfway when I collapsed against the wall in the hallway, drowning and desperately trying to breathe. It felt like both a breath and a lifetime before my husband reached me and I felt his arms wrap around me. I don’t even know if he said anything, knowing him – he didn’t. He just held me and I kept repeating, “I just wanted one more day.”
Strangely, that’s all I needed. And I didn’t get it. Or maybe that’s what I’m telling myself. The last 5 days + (I say plus because he’s been on hospice for a few days and been declining since his aneurysm on May 11th, 2015) I’ve been coming to grips with the fact that I’ll now know a life without my best friend, my hero, and my father. I thought because he had been suffering I’d be ok with this. But I’m not. The last 2 years of everything has caught up with me since my father has left this world.
The things you think about are strange. I’m not even 40 yet and if I live as long as my dad did, I’d have lived over half my life without my father. The idea of that makes me sick. Also, that means 40+ years with a handful of pictures (take more pictures, take lots and lots and lots of pictures) and not enough memories. These thoughts have been plaguing me. Other thoughts that have been plaguing me? Every single damn mistake I’ve ever made in my life and every way I have wronged my dad. Wow, I didn’t deserve him and I was so lucky to have him.
Sure, when I list off the memories there are thousands and thousands. My dad was truly my rock and for most of my life, was there for me or with me. I was suddenly mourning every moment in my future that I’d never have with him and it’s a crushing feeling.
I read somewhere that trauma can increase blood flow to the brain and charge up your memory bank and mind. Memories have been springing up that I haven’t thought of in decades. From the moment I was brushing my hair after the shower and remembering that it was my father who brushed my hair at night and braided it before bed to the smell of his cologne every morning when he went to work at the crack of dawn and always kissed me goodbye. And then there is every moment since his death. Mourning is a long process and I’m just in the beginning throes of it. I have no idea what tomorrow brings and for the first time in my life, I’m ok with it. I’ve become hyperaware of everything and I mean everything.
I know exactly how many times my friend’s have checked in, what they’ve said, the words they’ve used. I’ve noticed the moments that my husband is quiet versus when he responds. I can count exactly how many times I felt like I couldn’t breathe because I’m so overcome with grief I don’t even know how to process through the emotion. I’ve held onto the advice and words of comfort that really really helped. (There were a lot)
And fortunately, the less than a handful of times someone said something that really stung – or… didn’t say anything at all. My work has been put on the back burner and I can’t even remember the last time in my life I’ve done that and been ok with it. The other strange moments, like me working in our backyard yesterday and rolling up the hose, like my dad would do or making sure I went to Jackson’s swimming lessons even though I didn’t feel like it, again – something my dad would do. It’s like I don’t want to lose any moment or any influence. I’m holding on tight even though I’ve already had to let go.
Anyone who’s called or texted or stopped by I’ve welcomed. It’s been like a blanket of love that I’ve been wrapped in. I normally hate that sort of attention and I hate that that attention is needed now, but now – now I’m grateful for it. Why does death need to teach us how to love life?
I’ve also become fearful. I’m so afraid to let my husband and son out of my sight. So much so that when I do, I’m resentful that I need to. My dad would be mad about that and so I don’t say anything. Thanks Dad.
And the last thing, the thing I don’t have an explanation or words for? The connection even after death. This morning when I was driving to school a small airplane flew overhead and reminded me of my dad and his plane I use to go up in with him. Then the older gentleman walking down the road who had that casual walk like he was in no rush to go anywhere and was walking just to walk, like my dad used to. Suddenly, I realized what I wanted to do. I wanted to get my pilot’s license. I’ve talked about it before and with my fear of flying (another thing that annoyed my dad) and how it would help me overcome but I pictured myself up in the air, in the clouds, in the cockpit and I realize that there was no place better I could be to reconnect with my father, even after death. Yes, I would get my pilot’s license. I don’t know when and I didn’t set a date. Because I know I don’t need to. This isn’t something I’d worry about never doing because in my heart I know that I’ve set my mind to it.
And in that moment, while sitting at a red light, I glanced down at my phone and saw that the name of the song was ‘Dream of Flying’. I laughed. What else could I do? Ok, Dad. I love you too. You’re everywhere and you’ll always be with me because you’re a part of me. And as I sit here with my laptop on my lap, the laptop my dad bought me as a birthday gift 2 1/2 years ago, I look down at my feet and smile again. They’re my dad’s feet. No matter what happened in life I’d be ok because my daddy raised me right and I am my father’s daughter.
I miss him desperately and the grief is still raw and beyond painful. But I’m happy because only a love so large could create a grief so deep.