Today at 5:45 the phone started ringing. Odd that I heard it actually...I'm quite the sleeper, but today it rang and then rang again. A cold heavy feeling began growing in my belly as I trotted downstairs to get the phone.
Checked the Caller ID. My brother Dave. My mom. My brother Dave again.
Oh my God. This was the call. THE call. Nervously I called and my youngest brother Timmy (who is 10) calmly answered the phone."Timmy, what's going on.""Dad is dying"*noise in the background*"Dad is already gone."*silence* I replayed those words a few thousand times in the next few seconds."Is someone there with you?""Marsha and Dave are on their way.""Okay. I'm coming too.""Ok."Calmly he hung the phone up. Suddenly my world had changed.
We drove down to my hometown (about 40 minutes away). Mom refused to call the coroner until I got there. The closer we got the more nervous I was. Why? WHY would she wait? Why did I need to see him like that? What purpose would that serve? Was this some morbid thing that I was being forced to partake in? I just didn't get it.
When we got there she was sitting by his bed. There were several people there, faces red, eyes tired, murmuring to themselves. I walked into the living room where his bed was and his hand was on Mom's shoulder. My eyes burned and my face was already wet.
My dad wasn't moving. He didn't look bad or scary or anything. He was just still. Very still. He was still yellow from this damn disease and laying still. I stood by his bed and looked down. His brow was relaxed. His mouth slightly open. So still. In his face I saw echoes of my own. But it was different. It looked different without the animation life brings. I felt my heart hammering in my chest and my throat ached...I realized I had been holding my breath. I don't know why.My hands look so much like his.
It was forever before they came to take him away. Forever watching my mom hold him and cry. Stroke him and tell him how much she loved him. Touch him and say "I'll never feel his warm body again. I'll never be able to touch him like this again."
If hearts really could break, mine did at that moment. I was holding my breath again. I tried to exhale so that no one would be able to tell.
Then the worst part came. Worse than holding dad's hand and thanking God for taking his pain away. Worse than kissing his still warm forehead and knowing that it wouldn't be like that any more. Worse than having to explain what it was going to be like when Joey saw Grandpa for the first time after he had died. Worse...at least it seemed.... We had to go to the funeral home. It was fine at first. They are nice people. Pretty place. Business. Business. Business. Then he said "Let's go choose a casket." and pointed to a door beside his desk."Hmmm." I thought. "Is his catalog in there?"
Uhm....no catalog. It was a small room crammed with coffins. FOR REAL coffins. I mean..I'm not a total sheltered nerd or anything but again I was just taken back at being in this room. Really? Really you can't say something or hang a sign or something? I walked in and immediately felt claustrophobic. OH MY GOD.But I did OK. I didn't scream or run out of anything. I just held my breath. A lot. It took too long to pick one out. Wood was an obvious choice for him, but the prices ranged from $1400 to $5000. Holy crap. Grief AND debt. Eventually this process was over.. Lots of things to do to get ready, but this part was done. I cried most of the way back to Mom and Dad's house.Before we left tonight we went to the cemetery. It’s a family cemetery (of sorts) in the woods, on a hill with a pretty rustic view of green fields and trees. My uncle (a former funeral home guy) met us there to mark the place where the grave would go. A row down front to enjoy the view.I just kept choking back the burning in my eyes and practiced breathing in and out. Slowly in and out. About 10 feet or so away from the markers is the spot where I will be buried. This is the cemetery that we mowed every couple of weeks when I was a teenager. Mom and Dad took good care of it and today it looks just as nice.
They say that eventually I’ll be numb. I doubt it. Today the first man I ever loved died. I took one last picture of him today. My hand on his. The hands that held me and rocked me, taught me drive, walked me down the aisle. My daddy’s hands.
Monday, 25 February 2008