My Dad was intelligent, smart, loving, stubborn, and a pain in the ass. And he was my hero. I just didn’t realize he was my hero until it was too late. And five years ago today, I lost him.
He loved The Beach Boys, WWII movies, Star Trek, classic cars, James Bond, Nascar and fishing, just to name a few things. His idea of a vacation was to go “Up North” and drive around for hours, or stay in a “cabin” and bbq and fish. He was The King (too many lemondrops at a family wedding and he was so crowned.) He was Pops, Dad, Uncle Ron, Johnson. He was a Father, Husband, Son, Brother, Uncle and Best Friend. He didn’t quite make it to Papa, only in memory.
We had some doozy fights. Went head to head more than once. He drove me to insanity. Demanded I polish his black shoes. Controlled the remote. Taught me to ride a bike and drive. Pushed my buttons unmercifully. He let me watch General Hospital and Say Yes to the Dress, adding his commentary until we caught on he was enjoying watching.
He was the guy everyone deferred to. Needed advice, he got the call. Needed tools, he was the family Home Depot. He always seemed to know everything about everything.
I am completely lost without him.
My Dad passed from a pulmonary embolism. He had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure a few years earlier. He did almost everything he was supposed to stay healthy, but not quite. But that’s another story and not one I want to tell.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I think I cried every single day for 6 months after he died. The grief was so overwhelming I sought counseling. I had a hard time dealing with it. A really hard time. I was reliving that day over and over in my head. Waking up that morning, going into the kitchen and hearing him say he didn’t feel all that good… My mom asking if she needed to call 911. Him blowing it off as he struggled to breathe and walk from the kitchen to his recliner in the living room.
I wasn’t having it. He was putting his cpap mask on and struggling to breathe. I told my Mom to call and if she didn’t, I would. I sat next to my Dad, terrified, watching him try to take breaths. The look on his face behind the mask…
The ambulance made it in record time, I think. Time is kind of blurry. 2 paramedics at first, then maybe another 2 or 4… He was conscious when they first arrived, but I watched as his eyes closed while they worked on him, and they never opened again.
At some point I had moved to sit on the stairs to give the paramedics room to work and get him into the ambulance. I know I was screaming inside my head “don’t you dare die” over and over. I know I begged God to take me instead. My mom had gotten dressed, I think, and went in the ambulance with my Dad. Or did she. I don’t remember. I called my sister and told her to come home as fast as possible. She kept asking why, and all I could say was just come, Dad went in the ambulance.
I think I was alone in the house until my sister arrived. I really don’t remember my Mom being there. I know I got dressed and called my Aunt and Uncle, Cousins, I don’t even remember who all I called. I just told them to get to the hospital. My sister and sister-in-law arrived at the house and we went to the hospital. When we arrived they put us in a private room. And at some point I knew…
We kept asking for information, but no one would tell us anything. There was 8 of us in a tiny room, waiting, praying, hoping…
Eventually a doctor arrived. I didn’t like him on site.
“Mr. Black has died. We did everything we could…”
It was like a scene out of a TV show or movie.
He kept talking but I didn’t hear a thing after that.
I don’t remember when or how, but we got to see him in the emergency room. He was still warm, but as I sat there, holding onto him as tightly as I could, I could feel him getting cold. It was becoming all too real. He still had the tube in his mouth. I wanted them to remove it. I asked 2 or 3 nurses over and over and no one would listen or pay attention to me. I’d lost my uncle, my Dad’s younger brother, just about 6 months earlier. Now my other Uncle, my Dad’s youngest brother was losing his cool over it. He’d lost his 2 brothers within 6 months of each other. The meltdown was inevitable. And it was volcanic. He was threatened with security. He left on his own. I went to the nurses mini-station and went off. I remember this part vividly. Yelling at the asshole nurse who treated us all like shit that day, especially my uncle. I went off on her, yelling how he’d just lost his brother, how just months earlier he’s lost his other brother in that same hospital. I yelled about the lack of kindess and empathy, and I yelled how they all sucked at being human beings. Finally a reaction.
The tube was removed. We covered my Dad up as best we could with the sheets and blankets on his bed. We called our priest to have him come out for last rites. I got my shit together and went outside to call the rest of the family…
The rest of the week was pretty much a blur courtesy of Xanax. I even went into work on Monday to finish a project and tell my boss of less than a month that I’d be off the rest of the week because my Dad had died. Yeah, it was a brand new job.
I don’t really remember the viewing or the funeral. I remember meeting people from my Mom’s work, I had friend I hadn’t seen in many years show up. But the memories are cloudy, like looking through a foggy window.
The months following we more of a xanax haze, grief counseling, anger and sleeping. Oh the anger. It was consuming. I was so angry at him for not taking better care of himself, angry that he let himself die. I know that doesn’t make sense, but that’s what I felt. I was angry that they took him and not me. It should have been me…
I don’t remember how long after he died, but I had a dream, a very vivid dream about my Dad. There was a family gathering. He was there, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sandals. He was happy. And I was the only person who could see him. He took my hand. He told me he was okay. I could feel his hands. Warm and strong. It was real. SO real. I kept telling everyone he was there and that he was okay, but no one else could see him… I grabbed my Aunt’s hand and said look, here he is and she could finally see him. I woke up calling out for him, crying, and my hand was so warm…
I dreamt of him a lot. To the point where it became unbearable instead of comforting. I had to ask him to stop. And he did. And for a while it was okay. But then I started to miss him and wanted him to come back. But it took a long time before he did.
It’s been 5 years since he left us. I still cry. I still get angry. I run the gamut of the five stages of grief to this day. I haven’t gotten passed it yet. I don’t know that I ever will.
I talk about him to my nephews, who were born a year and a half after he died. I show them pictures, things that belonged to him. I want him to be a part of their lives. I think about how much he would adore them and spoil them. O is so much like my dad, down to the nailbitten chubby fingers and looks on his face. He looks like him in his older years while E looks like him when he was a kid. If he hadn’t died, those boys would have given him everything to live for.
I think about him every day. I talk to him. I yell at him. I beg him.
I miss him.
I love you Dad. You are my hero and I am sorry I never told you that.