In the midst of the chaos that is my life, I almost forgot an important anniversary. 23 years ago today, my dad died. I may have gone through most of the day today without remembering (even though I was discussing the day my dad died just yesterday with a friend, but I had to stop because I was starting to cry and I would've messed up my make up). My mom called this morning though and reminded me that my cousin Robert's birthday was yesterday - and I remember Robert saying right after my dad died that his birthday will always be a reminder of my dad's death. And so it is....
But that day - boy, do I remember that day back in 1985 when my dad died. My sisters, cousin Shinikia and I were at cheerleading practice getting ready for homecoming when my aunt Mable came in and said we needed to leave. I even remember what move we were working on when she came in. Auntie Mable didn't tell us what was going on - we all kind of thought the intrigue was fun and exciting. I remember that we were even giggling as Auntie Mable sped around the corner to get us home.
The mood changed very quickly when we arrived at our apartment. My mom was coming out of our second story apartment and was already locking the door. She was crying. I asked her what was wrong. All she said was, "your dad is sick." I don't know why, but I knew it was bad. I screamed and started crying, as did my sisters. We piled into the car and started the trek to get to my dad.
My mom and dad were separated at the time of his death. He still lived in Thousand Oaks where we'd visit on the weekends. We left L.A. in the midst of rush hour traffic trying desperately to get to my dad as quickly as possible. I remember sitting in the car on the 101 freeway - I was in the backseat behind my mom who was driving. I would count the cars on the other side of the freeway as they drove by. If less than five seconds passed between the cars going by, daddy would be okay - I thought. Sometimes it took the cars five seconds, sometimes it took ten, sometimes only one or two. It was all so confusing. All I know is that it took us FOREVER to get out there that day.
When we left L.A., the sun was still shining. By the time we got to the hospital, it was dark. At the time of my dad's death, he was a teacher and coach at Agoura High School. Some of the other football coaches were there in the lobby waiting for us when we arrived. My sisters and I sat in the lobby with my aunt as they whisked my mom away. I know now that they took her away to tell her that we were too late - my dad had died.
Moments later we were lead into a small room that looked like a college classroom. We waited a little longer before my mom came back in. That's when she took us outside. She held my sisters and I and told us that our dad had died. He was only 43 years old - he had had a massive heart attack while tutoring a student. I think the story goes that he had leaned back as he was taking a sip of Pepsi (his favorite soda) and collapsed. He was at a doctor's house when it happened, and the doctor, who was home at the time, couldn't do anything to save him. It was bad. I honestly don't know if my 9-year-old brain was really capable of comprehending the magnitude of that evening, or of that moment. But I remember just looking up at the clear, dark sky at all the twinkling stars. And I knew that my daddy was up there and that he had gone to heaven. I knew I wouldn't see him again. After that, my memory of that night gets a little hazy.
I fell asleep on the living room couch that night and I remember waking up at one point and seeing my mom sitting at the kitchen table. She was up making phone calls. In the midst of her sorrow and pain, she just looked at me and gave me the most reassuring smile that everything would be okay. With that, I was able to go back to sleep.
My life changed that night. Now, I can appreciate that losing my dad at such a young age was all a part of God's plan, and that I'm the person I am today because of my life experiences. But I miss him. I miss him all the time. It's in those big moments where his presence is missed the most - graduations, my wedding, etc. I wish he'd been here to hold his grandbabies. And how I would give ANYTHING for one more hug. Just one more hug. But I feel his presence all the time and I know he's still here. He's our angel. I have no doubt about that.
In the months before my dad's death, I spoke with him on the phone every morning after we moved to L.A. Our conversations were always brief, but they always ended with "I love you" and "I'll talk to you tomorrow." Had I known that the morning of September 17th was the last time I'd hear his voice, I might've stayed on the phone just a little bit longer.
My dad was my hero - my rockstar. He was superman - he could do no wrong in my eyes. He was perfect. In his honor, go ahead and reach out to a loved one you haven't spoken to in a while and just let them know you care. *HUGS*
(*And on a sidenote - I can look back now and appreciate my mom and the sacrifices she made to raise three daughters on her own. Sure, we have some issues here and there, but my mom did a heck of a job. She IS my hero.)
My dad in his younger days...