January 8, 2014
2014… be worthy.
My life has changed. I like writing down what I remember when big things happen. But nothing like this has ever happened, so I guess I’ll just write it now to remind myself what I need to do when my resolve starts to fail down the road.
This year I learned what it’s like to have your life come to an abrupt halt. On December 9th my Dad died, and nothing will ever be the same. He was only 57, and had a heart attack, with no warning, no previous cardiac history, no nothing…
On that day I looked down at my phone as I was working, and saw missed calls from my Mom, my aunt, and my sister. I had a text from my sister, Laura: “Call me, it’s an emergency.” I didn’t even listen to my voice mails, I just called her. The next few hours were a complete blur. Who am I kidding? This past month has been a blur. Tomorrow will mark one month since he’s been gone, and it feels so strange… I kind of just expect that I’ll wake up, and everyone will say ‘It’s okay Als, it was just a bad dream, Daddy’s fine.’
Instead I got “Daddy had a heart attack, Allie. He’s at Lehigh Valley Hospital, I don’t know anything else. Just get here.” Laura said to me, when I called back.
“Okay, I’m coming…” I said. I ran back to my boss, told him what happened, and hopped in my car with my head completely clear. I know I can count on myself to get through crisis situations, I’m good under pressure, I know how to deal with doctors- this would be no different.
I said to myself, what am I walking into? Having run a Cardiology office for several years, I thought I pretty much knew what I should be looking at. Not to mention my own cardiac adventures. Not once did it cross my mind that I wouldn’t be walking into anything other than a noisy hospital room, bustling with activity, and worried family. Not once did I think that I’d never get to see my Daddy again. People survive heart attacks all the time, no big deal. We’ll just have to pitch in a little until he’s better… Oh, how wrong I was….
I drove up the turnpike to Allentown, worried, but confident everything will be fine. When I got to the hospital, they wouldn’t tell me what room he was in (red flag number one, that I proceeded to ignore.) They said someone would come get me, and escort me back (red flag number two…) I tried calling my sister. No answer. What the hell? Why won’t they just let me go?! I can figure out how to navigate an ER! The hospital chaplain came out to get me (red flag number three… I saw it, and I would not, absolutely would not, believe it.) He took me to the “Family Room” and I ignored that too… I walked in and saw that my family sat in front of me, Monsignor Murphy from my childhood parish, my mom’s best friend…. but no Daddy… Where is my Dad?!
I looked around, just completely refusing to believe what I already knew. I could see it in the tears of everyone around me. I tried to ask, I tried to say “Where is Daddy?” Seriously, stop all this nonsense. Just take me to him.. please… but my sister took my arm and looked at me, and I couldn’t refuse it anymore…. The tears came, and I fought them back, hard. I breathed through the instant pain in my chest… No! No. My mom cannot see me like this… No!
My Dad… Oh, God….
My heart was throbbing, my breath left me as my Mom told me what happened, but I tried so hard to avoid hysterics. It won’t help to fall to pieces now. Just take me to him… I held on to my brother and sister as the chaplain led us to the room where Daddy was… Mom stayed behind. Once we got there, I looked in the door, saw him, and turned right around utterly unable to walk one step farther. I steadied myself against the wall… This. Cannot. Be. Real. Well, my efforts to avoid hysterics dissolved, and I cried. I cried, and cried some more. Then I turned around and walked in the room to face this. They had taken away the tubes, and he just laid there not looking like my Daddy. He was too pale, and too cold. I felt so many things, guilt, anger, shame, rage, worry, sadness… such sadness…
Somehow we left him, somehow we made it home… Somehow we kept breathing when we felt like dying ourselves… Liquor and chocolate, according to my family, is how that’s done. Laura went to the liquor store, I went to the grocery store and Josh Early Candies. Liquor and chocolate… You’d be amazed what you can survive on.
The arrangements, the viewing, the funeral, the holidays… it was all like walking around on auto-pilot, There were too many emotions trying to run me, so I just felt everything at once, and tried to make the best of it. For what it’s worth, there is no best of it. There’s no way to reconcile having your father taken from you too soon. There’s no way to make seeing the broken hearts of everyone I love any easier.
I can tell you, dear person interested enough in my silly life that you’re willing to read my rambling thoughts: that I quite literally would not have survived without the rest of my family, and my friends. My friends: Those amazing people that I couldn’t hope to deserve. Those incredible people who dropped their entire lives to bring me my clothes when I had none, feed my cat, drive me around, come sit with me, leave their families and kids on a cold, snowy night to stand by me at the services, send me beautiful cards and flowers, stop in to check on my mom or me… talk to me in the middle of the night just to make me laugh a little bit… gather me up in their arms, and hold me while I cried… I am one of the luckiest, most blessed, utterly undeserving women in the world to have people who care about me like that, because I cannot imagine having to do all I’ve done this past month without them. Which leads me to the only resolution I set at the end of 2013 – not for 2014, but forever:
Be worthy of the love people bestow on me.
I feel that guilt that it took my Dad’s death to shine light on this perspective, but I want to live to honor those people who love me enough to get me through something like this, and deserve their love.
It’ll take me a long time to resolve the sadness I feel and some of the guilt for being so mouthy when I was a kid. I was so damn stubborn… I couldn’t have been easy to deal with. But the last words we said to each other were him saying “I love you, Allie.” and my reply of “Love you too, Daddy. Bye.” so now I just have to keep living to be worthy of that… to honor him.
I love you, Daddy. I miss you so much.