When my mom called after eleven pm. that Wednesday night, I knew why she was calling. It was officially Emergency Call Hour in our house and my dad was in hospice care, taking in very little sustenance, breathing irregularly. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what she would say when I picked up the phone.
But I was literally shocked. As I listened to her cracking voice tell me what I knew she would, I felt a shock wave go through my body as if there had been an actual physical blow to my nervous system.
When I finally drifted off to sleep that night, after many hours staring at the ceiling thinking basically nothing, feeling mostly everything, I dreamt about him. In my dreams that night, my dad was young, walking and talking, strong and vibrant. I woke up completely unrested and stupidly confused.
As I adjusted my eyes to the light of day, I spent a ridiculous amount of time wondering: which was the dream?
Z is in a "not fair" phase. She is very interested in equality, especially when it comes to relative cookie sizes, number of cheese crackers and amount of Christmas presents. She keeps track and expects that everyone should get the same amount. She wants everything to be fair.
I am feeling a new kind of empathy for her these days.
One day this week, a friend told me that her dad is coming to help out with her kids while her husband is away on a work trip. Another announced her intention to throw her dad a surprise birthday party this year. Then I read a lovely blog post, where the author posted photos of her dad loving up her children. All I could think in these circumstance was "it's not fair." My girls have lost their grandfathers. Both of them. And they are young enough that they may not remember their grandfathers as anything but photographs in an album.
On that day, the one where it seemed everyone was talking about my dad this and my dad that, I was shamefully pissed at them. But my anger is not limited just to happy people who still have their fathers. Today I am angry at cigarette companies and their deep, cancer-lined pockets. I'm angry at my dad for ever smoking.
Mostly, I'm angry at the universe for being so indifferent.
I go to the gym a little more often these days and stay for a little longer. When I feel tired or less than inspired by a workout, I flash to an image from last summer, when my dad was trying to get stronger after a long bout of pneumonia. I helped him do some basic strengthening moves and it was so hard for him to do a squat down into his chair.
At the gym, I push myself deeper into squats, I suffer through an extra push up or five.
I try to put myself in another class of person entirely. As if fit people never get cancer. As if strong people never die.
Or maybe I'm just interested in feeling a different kind of suffering for a change.
After the gym, I eat a snack, a healthy one to start, nuts or an apple or something. Then suddenly, unthinkingly, I am on a veritable tour of all things chocolate and buttery in my pantry. I taste little. I feel nothing. My stomach turns when I am done.
What does it matter? Why not eat all the crap I want? In the end, we're all just ashes and I won't care if the roll above my pants ever disappeared.
A slightly larger pile of ashes doesn't sound so terrible.
Every day, I read my dad's obituary at least once. Every day, I refine and practice what I'm planning to say at his memorial service next Saturday. Every day, the preparations, the carefully crafted words, make it seem a little more real.
My dad is gone.