Something told me not to answer the phone. But I did.
At first all I heard was excitement. Then it came. We somehow missed you. You fell through the cracks of the phonebook, old friends, and the word of mouth. I thought of you, I did. From all the stories. The trips. So many good times, he said. You missed the wave of information, distanced yourself from the loop. It’s one of the hardest things about this entire situation. Telling the people who least expect it. And remembering them, roo
It always catches up. I could hear it in your voice. One old friend calling to talk to another. The years between calls always seemed to pass quickly. I remember you called last summer. It came at such a good time for him, it was so nice to hear him laugh again. Those calls made him young and healthy again.
I felt you drop. The pause, the hard swallow followed by the quiver.
What could I say? God, you’re so behind.
I just wanted to let you know that Dad's final moments were ones where he knew he would finally be at peace again. Free from all of the chains his ailments put on his body. Free from the daily suffering, making each hour and minute seem like an eternity sometimes. In the last few years and especially the last few months, we really saw dad in an insurmountable amount of discomfort. Having known what he was so capable of during his prime, it was so sad and hard to watch. But god damn, he was strong and had such a desire to get better. Up until the very end, he always had hope. Whenever I'd ask him if he wanted anything (more along the lines of a glass of water or a bite to eat), he'd always reply with "How about a new set of lungs!" All he wanted to do was get better and start going to his Knights of Columbus meetings again, and to be able to just interact normally with life.
I've been thinking a lot lately about his last few months, and I truly have no idea how he pulled through. Standing up literally made him out of breath, let alone the walk to the bathroom from the couch. I knew that wasn't the man he wanted to be, but he just had so much fight. So much to give everyone. You know how giving and caring he was. I don't know if this makes any sense, but I was thinking today that his soul and spirit were working so hard his entire life that they finally out-paced his body and it eventually gave up. That's why I haven't been saying he passed away, but instead passed on. On the last day he was talking so much about his "new job up in heaven" that he had to attend to. He so looked forward to again meeting his parents, his grandparents, and his father-in-law. He also couldn't wait to talk about the Yankees and have a beer with Babe Ruth and Mikey Mantle. Alicia and Ellen (mikes girlfriend) saw him waving out the door of the hospital room the on Tuesday. When they asked him why he was waving at nobody, he turned to them and said, "Silly, just because you can't see anybody doesn't mean nobody is there." He really held on to his faith in the end, and I've always known that's what he believed would happen. He would meet all of these people that he hadn't seen for so long. Knowing that, and seeing him open his eyes and smile right before his last breathe has made this entire experience so much more comforting to us all. To me at least, it's meant the world and I think of it as just another one of the many lessons he's given me.
He was so excited with his decision to go on the "comfort care." At first it was so hard to comprehend but then selfishness resided and I remembered all of the suffering and pain he was going through. He knew it was the end, he would never fully recover. It was so inconsistent with how he lived his life. And especially inconsistent from how he wanted to live his life.
I know the upcoming days, months and years are going to be so difficult. But I keep going back to the knowledge that for the first time in years he's no longer suffering. He was able to finally get the upper-hand on his disease and make sure he did things on his own terms. Things feel so quiet around here. The amazing force that's always been there in our lives isn't around physically anymore. But he says he'll be watching over us and has no qualms about haunting us if need be! I think he's already started having some fun with that, too. It's going to take a lot of getting used to.
I think it’s hard for everyone outside of the five of us to really understand. You only heard the news in pieces, and only spoke to him on the phone for the most part. You only encountered his mind. You didn’t see the body. So it’s hard, and I understand. I feel sorry for you, because this has to be so hard for you.
I still haven’t called the house phone and heard the message. Mom told you to call back though, and listen to it. “Still sounds the same. Goodbye.” During those last few days, I heard a lot of last “goodbyes” but I’ll never forget that one. The way the words hung in the air. It's dark. And I keep running, screaming at the top of my lungs in a room full of people who can't hear me.