When will I wake up?

January 22, 2010

Fuuuuuck, can the minutes tick away any slower? C’mon! I knew that I should’ve bailed on this class today. It’s okay. I’m parked right outside, so if I haul ass as soon as we’re done, I can get there and spend a few minutes with him, and still get to work by six o’clock. …enough about St. Peter’s Basilica and its buttresses, dude. Let’s wrap this shit up already.

Finally!

Taconic or Hutch? Taconic. No, the Hutch – definitely the Hutch.

You’ve gotta be kidding me. Traffic!? Typical. Fuck.

[On my archaic – even for the late ‘90s – cell phone]
Me: Hey, mom, I’m not going to make it to the hospital. I’m stuck in traffic – and I have to work at six.
Mom: It’s okay. He’s okay. Go to work.
Me: I’ll go in the morning. Will he still be there, or is he being sent home tomorrow?
Mom: They did more tests today – said he might go home tomorrow. Don’t know yet.
Me: Okay, see you in the morning.

[That evening at work]
Coworker: Joe, phone call.
Me: Hello?
Uncle: Joseph, can you leave work?
Me: …um, yeah, why?
Uncle:
Me: WHY!?
Uncle: Dad…dad’s taken a turn for the worse. You should come. Now.

Helicopter? Rocket? Teleportation? I don’t know how I got to the hospital so fast, but I’m here. Where are the elevators!? [Pushing “3” a thousand times…] Hurry up! C’mon! …oh no. No. No-no no noooo… [Before the elevator even reached the third floor, I could hear the crying – the hysterical crying.]

I was too late. My father was gone.

+ + + + + + + + +

My father died 12 years ago. I didn’t speak to him on that day. I wasn’t at his side in those final hours or moments to tell him that I love him and let him know how much he means to me. I never said “goodbye.”

For the last 12-plus years, I’ve been involuntarily reliving that terrible day often – like a recurring nightmare. Something inexplicable triggers the memory and I find myself getting that call from my uncle, or standing in the lobby of the hospital, or feeling my stomach drop as the elevator arrives on the third floor.

I know that I couldn’t have done anything to change the outcome that day. I just wish that my mind would remind me more often of the many, many, many great times I had with my dad.

23 Responses to “When will I wake up?”

  1. D. Pasquarelli says:

    Very moving Mr. P. I am sorry for you loss although a while ago it is obvious that it stills pains you to this day. Thanks for sharing something true, something real. That is the goal of all writing in my opinion. Bravo.

    • Thanks, D. There are so, so many factors that go into one's recovery from the loss of a loved one. And of course it varies from person to person, but I wholeheartedly believe that we all – eventually – get our minds and hearts to a more comfortable place. My story here may lead you to think that I "struggle" with my dad's loss, but I don't. Honestly. It was the most awful moment of my life, and the two or three years following his passing were miserably tough, but today I'm good. I'm lucky enough to have incredible friends that helped me through the worst of times — and good bereavement and psychological therapists too! (Ha!) I no longer let the haunting nightmares get me down, but rather immediately combat them with some of the wonderful memories.

  2. Karen says:

    I was in high school when my best friend's dad died. He had been in a coma for two weeks, during which time we had all kept a nearly constant vigil in the ICU waiting room. I finally managed to convince my friend to leave for one night and come back in the morning. That was the night he died. I know she's long forgiven me for taking her away so that she couldn't be there with her mom when it happened, but I've never quite forgiven myself for it.
    Anyway, I've never been exactly in your shoes, but I can imagine how that moment felt when the elevator door opened. And you're lucky to have so many great memories to focus on.

  3. Fuck, It's Cold says:

    While your post is so personal, it's so relevant to so many people. Some of us have made it there in time, others haven't – we all hopefully learn the lesson: Stop fucking around. Say what you want to say, you might never have another chance.
    Well said, Poop.

  4. Karen says:

    I was in high school when my best friend's dad died. He had been in a coma for two weeks, during which time we had all kept a nearly constant vigil in the ICU waiting room. I finally managed to convince my friend to leave for one night and come back in the morning. That was the night he died. I know she's long forgiven me for taking her away so that she couldn't be there with her mom when it happened, but I've never quite forgiven myself for it.

    • Thank you for sharing, Karen. I've learned not to beat myself up over the choices I made during that time – and I encourage you to do the same. I'm glad your friend has "forgiven" you, as I'm sure she knows full well that you were simply supporting her through that difficult time. I suggest you forgive yourself in knowing that too.

  5. Garrett says:

    Excellent post, Mr. P. I lost my mother in a very swift set of circumstances too. Reality shifts and melts and remolds itself around us as we keep on paddling down the great and beautiful raging river of life. There are ways to reclaim some of the power/energy invested in that memory of yours…more on that later.
    Nice work.

    • There's no denying the life altering impact that my father's death made – and continues to make – on my life. The decisions I've made since his passing most certainly would've been different if he were still here – for better or worse, I don't know. But they would've been different. Thanks for reading and sharing, Garrett.

  6. Will says:

    Dude, I know it happened 12 years ago, but this made it feel like yesterday, so I want to say, "I"m sorry."

    • Thank you, Will. Like you and your son will always have Godzilla, I will forever have memories of my dad and I lamenting over the Mets and Bears. Lord knows if the Cancer didn't kill him, the '06 NLCS and Super Bowl XLI very well may have.

  7. llxt says:

    Hey Joe–Try the power of positive {re}thinking. Any time your mind relives one of those horrible moments, "consciously" think of a good memory with your dad instead. Eventually, your mind will start doing that on its own. (It's a trick, but it works…if you agree to being Fooled.)

    • That's precisely what I've conditioned myself to do over the years. In the early years of coping with the loss, I really resented myself for allowing my mind to "go there" so frequently, while seemingly ignoring all the wonderful memories. It's less of a challenge today, though, I suspect that it's a wound that never fully heals. Thanks, LL.

  8. rosie says:

    this is an excellent reminder for us all…a well needed reminder…

  9. McKnight says:

    There are no open caskets in our family. Bodies are cremated and, as a child, the limit of my exposure to death was wearing a suit and enjoying finger foods with tearful family. There was no death, our loved ones simply 'went away'.
    Eight or nine years ago my good friend's uncle, who I had known well, died under hospice care after a long battle with cancer. An aunt, who was Catholic, encouraged me to go upstairs to view the body before it was taken away.
    This was death. This wasn't a carefully arranged display of a body in a suit with folded hands and makeup.
    This is natural. Death, and birth, should be a part of our lives and not hidden away from us in hospital rooms. I believe this is true.
    We had fair warning when my grandmother died. My mother, brother, and sister flew down to D.C. to be with her but I chose not to go. They were by her side when she passed. Sometimes I regret my decision and other times I feel thankful that those I loved didn't die, they just went away.

    • Thanks for sharing, McKnight. I remember very little about what/how I experienced death prior to my father’s passing. I was 20 when he died and had certainly experienced family deaths prior to his – but his redefined death for me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve become a callous douchebag as a result of my father’s death. When my grandmother died a few years ago, and more recently when my grandfather passed away, I couldn’t help but look at all the sobbing faces and think – What are you crying about!? He/She lived a full life and they got to see their children graduate from college, marry, enjoy their grandchildren and retirement, etc. Old people are supposed to die. That’s life. Celebrate all that they experienced in those 90 years with us.
      I have friends my age who have lost a parent and it’s those deaths that I feel sorrow for and empathize with for obvious reasons. Should we only shed a tear and feel heartbreak for the loss of a parent? I’d like to say “no, of course not,” but that’s where I am today, feeling like I’m incapable of feeling sympathy for those that don’t share a similar experience to my own. It’s terrible.

      • McKnight says:

        I agree that a funeral for someone who lived a full life should be a celebration of their contributions and our memories of them.
        I almost didn't comment because I feel my experience with death is shallow compared to someone who has lost a parent before their time. Everyone processes death differently and that has everything to do with their life experience and belief systems.
        Thanks again for writing this piece, it has certainly been thought provoking.

  10. Jason says:

    I have nothing of insight or kudos to add that hasn't already been masterfully stated in these notes. I'll just thank you for your characteristic honesty and willingness to share yourself unguarded. I'd imagine such traits would have made your dad proud.

  11. You're a kind soul, Jason. A completely worthless fantasy sports player, but a very, very dear person.

  12. James Cook says:

    Awesome piece. My father passed away 10 years ago. I was at his side but left for 5 minutes…5 friggin minutes…and came back to him gone. He died alone. I know he'd forgive me, I hope that you can feel the same way.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, James. These are typically experiences that we keep to ourselves, or share over the years with our nearest and dearest. But I wanted to share – and I'm glad that I did. Many people have contacted "offline" to share similar stories of their own. It's great that we're able to grow from such a destructive experience.

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