You know, it’s not the loss that hits first. It’s the pain. The pain that doubles you over and wrings more tears from your eyes than you ever thought possible.
My dad died on October 2, 2007. It was a normal day, just like any other. A Tuesday. I was at work; I was always one of the first people to get to work, which I liked because I could goof off for a solid hour before my boss got there. It was just after eight when my mom called.
“Your dad is in the hospital again.”
I sighed. This was a pretty common occurrence over the past several years. To be honest, we’d gotten used to it. My dad was diabetic, and not the best ever. He’d gone into renal failure several years ago, and was on dialysis. It took my mom forever to convince him to even go on the donor list; they’d already turned down one kidney (with good reason, actually). My uncle offered up a kidney, but when they started the testing on him they discovered that he was diabetic too.
My uncle, of course, manages to be the epitome of the perfect T2 diabetic.
In August of that year, they gave my dad a kidney. He spent a solid two months in the hospital, with one brief trip home. He was back again the next day, because he had a major low and my mom had to call 911 on him.
He was finally home for real at the end of September. The kidney had finally woken up (translation: started working on its own), and things were looking up. There were about a bajillion tests that would have to be done. For months my dad would have to be at some doctor’s or another at least once a week.
Only none of that happened.
I remember going to the bathroom shortly after I got to the hospital. My mom was sitting in the waiting room, her only comment to me upon my arrival about how quickly I’d gotten there. I didn’t ask what had happened, and she didn’t tell me (until later).
I remember seeing the “Family Room” near the bathroom and thinking to myself that’s the room they take you in to tell you your loved one didn’t make it.
Guess where we ended up?
They let my mom go back to see him, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to see my dad on some hospital gurney, full of tubes, empty of life. So I stayed in that room and cried and cried and cried.
The rest of that week is mostly blurred, and that’s probably for the best. I remember going to the airport that night to pick up my aunt, who changed the flight she’d been about to get on when my mom called to come out East. I remember that my grandparents both came, even though none of us expected to, and all three of my mom’s brothers.
But most of all, I remember the dreams that I had. They were the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had in my entire life. My dad stuck around for that week before his funeral. I don’t know if anyone else realized it, but I am nearly positive of it. I dreamed about him every single night that week, and it was like being awake.
And they weren’t the nightmares you might expect of a girl who’d just lost her father, right when she thought he was taking a turn for the better. They were the most cherished dreams I’ve ever had. It’s hard to explain, honestly. And it’s not even that I remember them exactly, but they were all the same:
I was at home, as was everyone else who was staying at the house (which was way too many people for such a tiny house). They were like repeating the day I’d just had, only my dad was there.
“But Dad,” I would say to him, “you know you’re dead, right?” Not one for subtlety in dreams, am I?
He would answer in the affirmative.
“Then what are you doing here?”
He would shrug and smile, and never actually answered the question, even though I’m pretty sure I asked him that every night.
I’m pretty sure that he was just hanging out, making sure we’d all be ok. I doubt he was ready to go when he died (we’re pretty sure the anti-rejection meds caused a massive heart attack. He’d had silent ones before, several times, and I guess this was the big one). So he stuck around for several days to keep an eye on us.
I remember that he was, well, I’m not sure that happy is the right word for it. But he was happier than I’d seen him in along time. In fact, he was more as I remember him being from when I was little. He smiled a lot more, and he felt a lot better all of the time. That is the Dad who was in my dreams.
He used to tickle my face with his whiskers when I was little. Every winter he’d grow out his beard. That’s one of my favorite memories.