On Wednesday of this last week, my Dad had replacement knee surgery. By Saturday at 3 o’clock in the morning he was gone. Just that suddenly. Just that unexpected. He came home from the hospital on Friday morning and that night a blood clot took his life.
My mom showed up at my doorstep with a next door neighbor friend at 2:45 a.m. pounding on our door. When I opened it, the first words out of her mouth, in between uncontrollable sobs, were, “You’re dad just passed away tonight.”
Surreal is the only word that comes to mind; and even that is woefully inadequate. That was my Dad. He was fine. Healthy, other than hobbling up and down the stairs on ruined knees from a high school and college career as a baseball pitcher on top of decades of golf rounds. We had beers. We swapped stories. We bitched about the government. We compared notes on novels we’d read and TV shows we watched.
And now he’s, what? Just…gone? But…that was my dad.
It’s weird how the human body reacts in situations like this. My mother was understandably inconsolable. My wife vacillated between crying and comfort. Between helplessness and strength. Me? I gained a whole new understanding of when people say during similar times, “I’m just sick to my stomach.” And oddly too, I couldn’t drink enough water to quench my thirst or dry mouth. But at least it gave me something to heave.
That first evening, a group of friends of his gathered to honor his memory; to raise a glass (or several) and swap stories, antecdotes, jokes and ribbing. That’s when the word “surreal” lodged itself in my mind. No, actually, that was when I called my mom earlier in the afternoon and asked, “Is he still in the morgue, or did they come take him to the funeral home?”
I mean, that was my dad I was talking about.
But back to the evening: I remember sitting around watching people, listening to the reminisces, and thinking of that scene in “The Big Chill” at the dinner table when the Glenn Close character looks around to all the gathered friends and says, “He should be here.”
The next morning, as we were talking about that gathering, my wife said, “Did you notice? She was the only one? There we all were, wishing her the best. Comforting, consoling, laughing. And we were all couples. Every one of us, except her. She was the only…one.”
As I’m writing this, it is only the second morning since my father’s passing. I’m sure there will be plenty more moments of my new surreality to come. But for now, I just wanted to let the world know that I loved the hell out of my dad.
I miss him.
There weren’t enough evenings of racing at the Stateline Speedway with his grandson. There weren’t enough tips on how to grow roses, or mend fences, or how to properly use a pressure washer. There wasn’t enough advice on how to navigate the political and social waters of the public education system that he spent his whole life in. There wasn’t enough…time.
There would never be enough.
I. Miss. Him!
I haven’t even begun to think of all the “woulda,coulda, shoulda” things I needed to say and do before he died. Those will come. A lot of things will come. Including more of the tears that are currently falling on the keyboard as I write this.
But for now, I just wanted the world to know…
That was my dad. He was supposed to live forever. And he went far, far too soon.