It is amazing to me how grief can sneak up on you and stop you in your tracks, even when you are expecting it.
It was Monday July 21, 2008. I had just dropped the kids off at their summer program and pulled out my cell phone to make a call.
I’d missed a call from Becky. Oh shit. If Becky calls me, something is wrong with Dennis. Something was indeed wrong with Dennis, he’d ruptured his achilles tendon. Ow. Ow OW OW OW!!!
Dennis was my emotional father. My biological father was not really a part of my life until I was well into adulthood. Dennis and I didn’t share genes, but a bond much stronger. Even after he and my mother parted ways on less than pleasant terms, Dennis and I stayed close. For many years, he was one of the few sane people in my life. He was a giver and never a taker and so much of who I am can be directly traced to him and his influence on my life.
He was incredibly funny and a gifted writer. He could put anyone at ease, but if you crossed him, he’d let you know with a smile on his face. He was a ‘call ‘em like I see ‘em kind of guy’ and that set me straight more than once. He was not perfect, far from it (he’d be the first to admit it). He was terrible at taking care of himself and eventually, that caught up to him.
He went into the hospital to have surgery to repair the torn tendon. He had type II diabetes and had already survived a kidney transplant and an amputation. To say he was not in great health would be an understatement.
When I saw the voice mail from Becky, I knew it couldn’t be good. I tried to track everyone down to find out what was going on, but was unable to reach anyone. He HATED hospitals and hated having a fuss made over him, so I held out and called his cell phone only as a last resort. He answered sounding awful. I got the details and was able to say “I love you.”, before we hung up.
Through the day I got updates from Becky and his sisters. When the phone rang at Midnight, my first thought was my daughter and her grandparents who were driving across the country, but as I crossed the floor to the phone, I knew it was a call about Dennis. Still, I had to ask the sobbing Becky, “Are you telling me he’s gone”? I knew the answer, but I had to be sure.
Yes, he was gone.
Oh shit. Oh shit OH SHIT!!!!
The surgery to repair the tendon was successful. Becky spoke with him post op, but shortly after that, his heart gave out. If I’m being truthful, it was a better way for him to go. The transplanted kidney was failing and he was facing a grim future. I am sorry he’s gone, but I wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer.
It’s been almost a year. The date isn’t marked on my calendar, but it doesn’t have to be. He died Monday, July 21, 2008 at the age of 59.
I thought the anniversary of day itself would be hard and scheduled myself pretty tightly in an effort to keep the demons at bay. Turns out, this, week, the week before has been brutal. Everywhere I turn, there is a reminder. My iPod and the radio have ganged up on me.
He wouldn’t want this. He would want me to remember the good times, like when he read me Little House on the Prairie, when he tried to teach me to fish, the infamous New Year’s day brunch that went on all day, my wedding day (he walked me down the aisle and we danced to Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion), the Father’s day weekend he came to visit and met my daughter and we hung out in Rockport eating lobsters and drinking beer or the fall weekend he came to meet my son and he and I had third row seats to an amazing concert.
I remember all those times and more, but there have been too many times in the last twelve months where I could only shake my head and think “Dennis would have loved this.” I hate that he’s not here to share those things with
I have no pithy ending. Life will go on and as is customary, the grief will ease with time, but IT WILL ALWAYS SUCK!
This says it all I Still MIss You by Keith Anderson.