My sister called me right before I was to head into a doctor’s appointment.
Life is damned cruel. The day before my dad was to get out of rehab and finally head home, he was told he was dying.
He didn’t believe it.
It was true.
How can someone be well and lucid and then…crashing?
He was awake. But his lungs were worn out and his body was shutting down for good. The doctors said so, with tears in their eyes.
My sister said, Dad’s been moved down to hospice. He’s going to take a sleeping pill in a little while,so if you want to say goodbye, do it soon.
How do you make that sort of phone call without sobbing out every word?
How do you live with yourself knowing you won’t see your father ever again? And being sorry sorry sorry that you weren’t there to hold his hand and look into his eyes and tell him it is okay?
My sister called first while I clutched soggy tissues and headed into a doctor’s appointment, crying my eyes out. The timing was terribly off. But it was a quick appointment. The doctor gave me a hug when I explained.
Exam complete, I walked out to the little courtyard, sat on a concrete bench. Turned on my cell phone. And cried.
I looked up at the blue sky through yellow flowering palo verde trees and could hear my father’s cheerful voice declaring, What a beautiful day it is!
A mental slideshow…of backyard cookouts and library books read at bedtime and having him make scrapple and fudge…of home movies…telling us when we were acting up to Comet, comet down…wondering what cleanser had to do with being quiet….vacations on a farm and at the beach…Christmas trees…moving cross country…Masterpiece…King Oil…taking us to historical sites…the sad look on his face when we were sick…how he bought a Daniel Boone costume when we were embarrassed that he supervised our trick or treating in plain clothes and we were thrilled…
There is disbelief that it all rushed by as quickly as it did.
Deep breaths. I dialed. My sister warned me, he was weak and could not talk much but someone could hold the phone to his ear.
His wife answered. I could hear her sweet gracious southern voice say, Jim….
And I told him I was calling. That I loved him. And then…
“Because you always have a joke for me and because you are so tired, tonight I will tell the joke. ‘An Irishman walked out of a bar.’ ”
“….good one…love you…” and the phone clicked off.
And in the night, he joked a bit. “I’m going now…” and he’d open his eyes and smile a bit. And then he closed his eyes and slept forever.
He had a good, long life. He was not alone. He was loved.
But I miss him and I always will.