Sitting on the bed of the hotel room, I listen to the message my mom left. Her tone is unfamiliar but there’s a sense of urgency and emergency there. She had also texted me: “Call me when you have a few minutes and can talk. ASAP”
I call her. Phone rings a few times. She answers hurriedly and I ask what’s up. She’s getting out of the car and spills half a coke on her and mentions this.
She tells me Steve has called. Now her voice is fragile. It’s crumpling. It’s breaking. She says something like, “I guess you know what I’m going to say next…” and I ask for the words I’ve already heard in my head.
Her voice falls as she tells me, “your dad died yesterday…”
She’s giving way to her emotions and I’m giving way to mine. Breath is trying to catch itself but I’m caving in, allowing whatever this surge is to encompass me. Tell her I’ll call her back.
Put the phone down next to me on the bed and cover my face. A lot is coming out, not hysterically, not uncontrollably, but there is a lot in there. Gary comes over and holds me. Hands are still around my face and I’m processing what this means and finding no immediate answer.
I make note that I had been waiting for this day for years. I had been curious what my reaction would be and am a little surprised and how hard it hits. For me, I’d been internally debating whether or not to call my dad and had mentioned this to a few friends recently. I had written him before I left for California about six years ago and never heard from him. I gave a family friend my phone number almost two years ago and said, “when you talk with my dad again on the phone, give him my number. Let him know he can call me if he wants, and if he doesn’t, that’s okay too.” I never got a call. This didn’t disappoint me but there was still something inside of me that wanted to know what he was because I never really knew.
I call my mom back after I clean up. She tells me that I have to call Steve (dad’s brother) and give him consent to handle the funeral. My brother, sister, and I are the next of kin but we have no clue what to do now. I haven’t asked and hadn’t really thought about it but if we were to have gotten a call from a hospital with the news of our father’s death, I don’t know what the hell we’d do. We’re so detached from his life. But Steve is there and is handling everything, so I agree to call him and tell my mom I would like to attend the funeral.
Now I’m wondering if I’ll be the only one at the funeral with Uncle Steve. Will Kristina want to go? Maybe. I think mom will. But Cliff? In Afghanistan? He hated dad and I don’t blame him. We all have a lot of anger here. My dad would never take responsibility for the shit he did.
Ok, back to San Francisco. Get home after a few stops and call Steve. Get the full story about my dad’s pathetic and sad life after I last saw him. Vertigo. He had vertigo. Was hard for him to keep balance. Then his liver started failing and the ammonia levels in his blood would rise. It got to the point where he couldn’t answer the door and couldn’t pick himself up when he would fall, which he did often. Steve was taking care of him and finally convinced my dad to go to the hospital. Doctors said it was too late for anything and so they made him “comfortable”, which I think means they got him pretty sedated until he passed at 3:56am on July 17.
I think I’m okay. I’m okay for now. I’m ready to be with and live the emotions that are coming. The weight of all of this will hit sometime.
Got a text from mom that Cliff is coming. This makes me happy. I have never been more ready to see my family than I am now. We’ve been distant from each other almost our entire lives and have never talked about my dad. Nobody wants to open it. I do, I always have actually, but there’s resistance I’ve felt from Cliff and Kristina and maybe they’re about to give in. I could be wrong but this is a great opportunity to start building.
My friends are some of the best people in the world, so golden, genuine, sincere, loyal, respectful, accepting. Grateful for them always and especially now.