It was a cool, beautiful late summer day. We’d spent the night in the hospital. Someone had been there every night since early August. We didn’t want him to be alone, not even for a minute. I went to Prince Street to get us coffees that morning. And when I came back we noticed his breathing was different. Two breaths every forty-five to sixty seconds. It seemed agonizing. I reached out to all my siblings. The nurse said she didn’t expect him to make it through the day. At just about 10:30, she was proved right.
Grief is a strange thing. It has fogged out my memories. They are so dark and hazy, like some black and white mist-covered dream. I can typically recall so much, so sharply, but when I try to think of my dad or remember what his voice sounded like — there is nothing there. It feels like he didn’t exist; only sadness does in his place. I suppose over time this will change and this will sharpen through the haze, but for now, I am left with some photos here and there and some wishing differently about the interactions I can touch with my mind.
Death isn’t fair. I think anyone who’s experienced it will say as much. Over the summer, when things began to get bleaker and the treatments weren’t working, the overriding presence that filled my mind was that there were so many things left unfinished. My grandparents weren’t present in my life, mostly by circumstance, but in some ways, by choice. And I don’t know what I lack because of it. But Dad was present for our little ones. He had a special connection with Von (who looks like his clone) and such tenderness for Yanna. The other ones are younger, so there wasn’t as much of an established relationship with them, but it would have blossomed. And now they don’t get that chance. And Von doesn’t get to fix trucks with him when he’s old enough and he won’t be there for Yanna’s wedding… and on and on and on. There is so much left undone between him and I as well. There is more drywall to be finished and more paint jobs to do. He taught me both, and at first, I reviled him for making me go, but then it became a source of great thankfulness. It is how I pay the bills for my family now; it was my way out of the “starving” artist hell I’d descended into. But we won’t do them together anymore. About a week before he died, I was showing him photos of ladders I rigged up to get to a tricky paint job. He said he wished he was there helping out. And before I left the hospital for work that day, he said “Carry on.”
And that’s all I can do.