One beautiful October day I was home from my first month of college to watch my boyfriend and best friend practice in the marching band of the high school I where I had just graduated. My dad had a heart attack at age 39 and then another at 44. The second one happened on a beautiful spring day while he was playing tennis.
He had changed his diet, exercised, quit smoking, did everything the doctors told him to but still had a second heart attack. To this day this part of it baffles and terrifies me. I don't trust doctors very much. Back to band practice. I was sitting on the bleachers watching my friends' practice when I looked up in the sky at around 3PM and saw the most beautiful sky I had ever seen. Then the next door neighbors in their tiny Honda civic had my sisters in the car and came to pick me up at the school. They said they had to take us to the hospital but wouldn't tell us what had happened. So we sat in the car terrified and confused wondering what was going on. I remember bargaining with God to be a good girl from now on if when we got to the hospital he was still alive. But that wasn't the case.
We got out of the car and went upstairs to his room, walked in and found my mother and a priest who said my father had died or maybe it was my mom who said that part. I don't really remember. What I do remember is being in the elevator with my then 12 year old sister who I suddenly felt responsibility for raising. I also remember my boyfriend coming to the hospital. I think he followed us there.
The next door neighbor's oldest daughter drove me to college the next day to get my stuff and then stopped to buy me a dress for the funeral. All the relatives started showing up the next couple of days. We went to the wake and my clarinet teacher who was my mentor was there. She told me that there will be times when I see my father even though he is gone. I remember gathering a lot of strength and courage from her. I also remember my mother and two sisters and I sitting on my mom's bed talking about what we were gonna do now and I was trying to be strong for everyone. The funeral was very intense. I remember my mother screaming as they lowered my dad's casket into the ground. Then we went home and soon after I went back to college. I did go with my mom to take my dad's stuff to the Salvation Army. It doesn't really hit you that they are gone forever until all the hoopla dies down. Numbness and shock take over at first. For me the hoopla died down when I was alone at college. Plus I was closer to my dad than to my mother and sisters so it was very hard.
Whenever there is a high profile disaster like the shooting at Columbine High or a plane crash the old feelings come up like it was the day he died. I guess human beings are connected by their grief.
My dad was a very funny man. He used to shake his butt and tell funny jokes. I miss him. But it can still be very difficult even after 16 years and tons of counseling. But my life is very rich now. I am a therapist who can connect with people's pain I think because of this experience. I also write poetry about how it has affected my life. These things are very healing. After 15 years the surviving members of my family are healing as well. Slowly but surely.
Thanks for letting me tell my story.
You can send email to Christine at: [email protected]
anniversary date 10-7-83
date of post 4-28-99