That weekend Dad asked me to help him out. He was going to build a patio using paving stones. I said I couldn't. I had already committed myself to helping a friend move. I didn't see him much that weekend. If I had only known it would have been his last.
On Tuesday morning I was laying half-asleep in my parent's basement when my mom burst into the room. She was extremely upset and said that dad had suffered a heart attack while out picking up more paving stones.
We rushed to the hospital. To be honest I don't know how or when my sister arrived, I just know we were all at the emergency room at the same time. We gave our name at the desk and the nurse said to follow her and she'd get the doctor. Someone, I don't know who, asked if he was alright. The nurse said she'd get the doctor to speak to us right away. My mom said "Is my husband dead?". The nurse said "Yes he is."
There is nothing worse than thinking about the 'what ifs'. What if I had helped him? Maybe he wouldn't have been so strained. If I was involved maybe I'd have been with him to help load more paving stones. What if I had been there to tell him to take a break? What if I had just taken that last chance to spend time with him?
I thought about things like this for years. I thought about it so much that every time I was reminded of my dad, my heart would sink. I'd think of what I might have had if he lived longer - what I should have had. He was only in his 50s, he should have had more time. I'd think about what I was missing. I'd think of the what ifs instead of thinking about him.
Over the years thinking about dad became easier. I was better able to think about the happy memories with my dad instead of dwelling on his death, but it was still really hard to get past that sinking feeling.
Quite a while ago now I was on Facebook and saw a person who I hadn't spoken to since elementary school. His name is Glen N. I actually met him sometime in the 70's when we were both in 'Beavers'. This is when he met my dad too, as my dad was a Beaver leader. (Beavers is the group that comes before 'Cub Scouts' which is the group that comes before 'Boy Scouts'.) After Beavers Glen and I went to different elementary schools for years. When his school closed he came to my school (and we may have even gone to highschool together).
When he came to my school we were not exactly friends. We not only hung out in different groups, but the only time I remember spending time with him was one afternoon when he was repeatedly hitting me over the head until his hand hurt and he had to quit.
That being the case I was apprehensive about saying hi to him, but I realized this isn't the playground anymore. He wrote back and he didn't realize who I was at first. He said he went to school with my brother Andrew. I explained that I am actually that same person with a new name.
He didn't react poorly at all to either my transsexuality or to the fact that we didn't part on good company years ago. In fact the only thing he said was that he had heard about my dad's death. He said that my dad helped him out through a lot of tough times when he was younger and in trouble. He said he owed my dad a lot. Glen's words seemed so real and heartfelt, they really affected me.
I haven't seen him on Facebook since. It was like he came on just briefly enough to say something great about my dad and then he disappeared.
I think about dad a lot. The day we lost him was the worst day of my life. It is taking me a long time to get over that day. It has taken a long time for me to think about that day without crying. Lately happy memories of 30 years of life with my dad have replaced the sad memories involving his death. I know I'm his kid so I am biased, but my dad was a great guy. I've always been proud of him, the things he did when he was around, and I'm proud of what he has left in me. I have a lot of qualities in myself that came directly from him and I am better for them all. Being proud of my dad is nothing new, but thanks to Glen I was given a chance to hear something new about him that I didn't know, and another reason to be proud.
I remember my very first day of Beavers. I didn't know what Beavers was but I knew there'd be a bunch of kids there and I was very excited that *my* dad was going to be a leader. He said he was probably going to be called 'Rusty' because of his hair colour. I didn't know yet that they gave the leaders special names. I couldn't figure out why anyone'd call him Rusty at all, but sure enough he was introduced to everyone as Rusty, and that is what all the kids called him - except me.
I called him Dad.
I miss you Dad!