I knew what the call was about before my mom even picked up the phone. I had expected it for days, or maybe even weeks. I knew it was coming, but somehow I was completely unprepared when it did.
The call was short, a minute at most. I heard my mom answer it from the other room. It was early on a Saturday morning in the summer of 2009. I had just graduated high school a month prior, and I was putting on my work uniform to make pizzas for minimum wage. Even though I felt terrible, I made myself go, the world doesn’t stop just because your dad is dying. But the moment I heard the phone ring that morning, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to work.
I don’t think my mom even had to tell me what happened. One look was all it took, and we cried for what felt like forever. My brother did too. It was the kind of crying that aches, that doesn’t make you feel any better, but you do it because you don’t know what else to do. Its probably because there is nothing you CAN do, and thats what hurts the most - being powerless.
It felt unreal, like it was happening to another family, like it was someone else’s dad. He had been in the ICU for the past month with a ventilator tube down his throat. His death was both sudden and slow. It came on quickly, completely by surprise, but we had to watch him die for a month. There was nothing anyone could do, he had a terminal disease. It was terrible to see, almost unbearable. He was sedated so he could have the tube down his throat. When he could manage to communicate, it was always something simple - ‘HOME’. The best case scenario would be for him to come home on oxygen and maybe he could die six months later in a hospital bed in our living room - a fate worse than death for my hard working father. He never made it home, and that was probably for the best.
We just couldn’t believe he was gone. It was over. With that phone call, my life changed in an instant. I guess we all knew he wasn’t going to get better, but as long as he was still alive we could pretend like he was. After that call, the hope was gone. It felt like a void, or a vacuum. Like an absence of anything. Part of me was gone. The next morning I woke up, my face was swollen and chapped, and my head was pounding, and I couldn’t even believe he was still dead. It went on like this for weeks, past the funeral (which could probably be its own shitty memoir), past starting college. It didn’t feel like life could just return to “normal” after something so big happened to us.
I couldn’t see it then, but there is solace to be had. Sadness, for me, is like a wave. The wave of hurt and shock breaks across you, and you feel like you could drown, but in its wake there is calm. Once the dust settles, you can take a step back. After a few weeks or months, I started to appreciate his life and what I learned from him. The more time passed, the less it hurt and the more I healed.
Some things only become clear with time. In the blind hurt of a moment, it feels like an eternity. It feel like life will never be okay again, and the pain will never stop. But moments pass. Time is always marching onward, and everything will change. Just as my life changed completely in one moment, it can also change again for the better. Now I’m happier than I’ve ever been, happier than I ever thought I could be.
I remember my dad, and I remember all he taught me. Even though we had a lot of hard times together, I can forgive him, and I know that if he could see me now, he would forgive me too. He would be very proud. Time doesn’t make you forget the past, but prepares you for the future, which can only get brighter.