Losing a parent for some can mean losing security, a best friend, or even someone who existed with conflict but was someone you were still used to being there. My father and I didn’t get along. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was only 11 years old and spent the rest of his life sitting on a stool staring out the window day after day, rarely communicating and dealing with that, arteriosclerosis and two surgeries for deteriorated hips.
Living with my father I had growing resentment. I told my mother so many times as a teen to leave because he could be verbally or physically abusive which she attributed to his disease. So many times, I would see just how much life and living she had left in her and being with him brought her down. I was young and it wasn’t my decision or choice to have her stay and in turn, and truly, I couldn’t even begin to understand I realize now.
I had started my own family, but even after I was married, stayed with my parents as I knew how rough life was for them. My mother had cared for me through my rough pregnancy at 17 years old, where many parents back then in the 80’s would have kicked me out. I owed them to make their lives a little easier. Living with a disabled father was tough, but having no options as a couple with grown children is tougher.
Then one day, my father fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. He had pneumonia according to doctors and high blood pressure. Having had his first heart attack at just 38 years old, having high blood pressure at 59 was not a surprise.
A few days before he was released, I had a dream he was dying. It was so powerful and so strong that I called my sisters to tell them to make amends with him before it was too late. It was urgent to me. I had seen him die in my dream. Years before, I had dreams that had come true and had the same feelings, so I did not ignore it.
I went to the hospital and took some dice and cards. I played games with my father, smiled at him, and for the first time since I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, hugged him and kissed him. I was 21. I healed something in me that day and hoped that maybe, just maybe, there was still hope.
A couple of days later, he was released with medicine, one of which was an asthma inhaler he hadn’t yet had in combination with other medications. My husband brought him home at 11:30 AM. He smoked a cigarette and it made me angry-I remember telling him, “What are you trying to do, kill yourself?” I was frustrated and would forever regret my words.
Just before 6 PM that night, July 11, 1991, my father had the new inhaler prescribed. Within seconds, he jumped up from the kitchen chair he was sitting in, running with arms outstretched and collapsed over the end of the red couch in the living room just through the open doorway. I was right behind him. I knew.
I pulled him off the couch and down onto the hard floor, yelling for my mother to call the paramedics. I had my CNA and Home Health Aide certification with CPR a core element. I don’t remember how long I had done CPR by myself, but a childhood friend turned EMT came and we took turns doing CPR.
Then I looked in my father’s face. It was that moment I would never forget for the rest of my life. He was gone. I started crying and was pulled out of the way as the other rescue personnel arrived and flooded our living room. The rest was a blur, but I remember so well the fire chaplain asking me if I needed to talk or if they could call someone. I shook my head no. I wanted to be alone to cope with my grief.
My husband was at work and my daughter was only 3 years old. I stayed home when everyone else flocked to the hospital. I had no way to go, but got a phone call from my sister telling me our father had died. I didn’t need to be told.
After that, I left the medical field. Writing our father’s obituary and not having much to put in it made me realize I was going nowhere fast. I decided when I die, I wanted to make an impact and be remembered for something. I decided to do what I loved and pursued building my own business sewing. When I decided to write, it was my father that was in the back of my mind, silently telling me to go for it and reminding me how short life really is.
And here I am.