It was a Thursday. The last day.
The day before, an ambulance had transported my dad back home. Although he had roused the tiniest bit, enough to chew up his medication and gnaw on the straw I raised to his dry lips, he never really woke up.
I went to work that Thursday. Does that seem odd? I’d been off work so many days because he was dying. It had been eleven days in the hospital. That day though, a calm had settled and my great aunts were ensconced in the house with him, to watch over him. So I went.
I checked in by telephone at noon and Aunt Lu said he was resting. I drove into the driveway at 4:30 PM and she met me on the porch and told me I needed to go get my sister from her workplace just down the street.
I drove to Kentucky Fried Chicken and asked for her, my voice breaking. I hugged her there and told her we needed to go home.
I wasn’t in the room when he took his last breath. When I entered the room with my sister in tow, he was seizing and I quickly backed out of the room, taking her with me. We went into the darkened living room and sat in tearful silence.
What do you do when your dad is dying down the hallway?
Thirty years later, I can’t remember who told me he was gone. My mother, maybe. She was there, even though they’d been divorced for a dozen years. When I knew, I went to my dad’s office in the garage and told my husband and my stepmother (who was there, though they’d been divorced for six years) and my dad’s best friend.
For my whole adult life, I’ve lived without him. He never knew my children. He never knew the story of my life, the arcs, the obstacles, the heartbreaks, the solutions, the mysteries.
I miss him the way you miss the warmth of the sun in the midst of the most dismal winter of your life. You almost can’t believe that it ever existed. I wish I could hear his laugh, hear him speak, tell him my stories.
Thirty years and one day later, here I am in my house in southern California. The sun shines nearly every day. My children are mostly grown and my marriage is beautiful and strong. I never could have seen this life from that vantage point in the house on 44th Drive.
The loss of him tore a hole in the fabric of my world. Since then, I’ve been patching together the frayed edges, trying to make something beautiful out of the remnants. I think he’d be proud.
I miss him.