Thursday, October 14, 2010

Four Years

Sunday is the four-year anniversary of the day my father passed away. Anniversary feels like the wrong word. An anniversary is something that should be celebrated. You should buy a cake, blow out some candles and follow that up with a song. Or presents.
All things I will not be doing on Sunday.

As the days move toward November 1st, and the big NaNoWriMo, I've been thinking a lot about moments. Moments make a story, just like moments make our lives memorable.

The day my father died was wet and dark. I woke up to thunder and "tink tink tink" as the rain hit the metal shed outside my window. I remember cleaning all morning — we had clients coming over — while my daughter, who was four-months-old at the time, complained from her bouncy seat. Every light was on in our house, some candles were even lit. It was the quintessential dark and stormy day.

For most of my life my father was sick. I remember being ten and watching my mom race down the long hallway in our one-story house.
"Shari! I need towels!"
Any other day my mom would not be yelling this. She would walk to the linen closet and fetch them herself.
So it wasn't the panic that hit me first, nor the speed at which she moved. She needed my help. And she needed it now.
My father lost a lot of blood that day. And many more days to come over the next twenty years.
So you would think I'd be prepared.
Prepared for the phone call. Prepared for the words that change everything.

But I never could have prepared for the way I found out.

The phone started ringing about fifteen minutes into our appointment. The bride, we'd photographed months before, and her mother stared down at their 4x6 proofs spread out on our dining room table like a wedding collage quilt.
I glanced at the caller ID and discovered it was my sister, Barbi. I didn't need to say, "I'll call her back."
We never took calls during appointments.

And when the phone immediately rang again, followed by my cell phone, I didn't really think anything of it. My family doesn't take voicemail for an answer.
But when my sister Judi started calling and then my third sister, Lori, joined the search, my hands began to shake.
I remember walking around my house, concentrating on breathing in and out, while I collected phones. And oh, don't forget to smile every time the bride's mom glances my way.
I hid the phones in my bedroom.
I'd already silenced them but as I rocked my daughter in my arms, desperate for her to fall asleep, I watched as one by one they lit up and flashed a family member's name.
When my mom called I almost picked up.
But I couldn't. I knew. How could I not? He'd been going downhill for days now. Downhill. Not up. Not straight on a flat surface or around the corner like he had been for years. But down.

I'm sure the bride's mom thought I was behaving strange. Or at the very least she was questioning my hostessing skills.
I know I could have rescheduled. I know I could have pulled my husband to the side and asked him to make them leave.
But as long as they were here I could pretend I didn't know. Even though my quick heartbeat and my short and hurried breaths were making it rather difficult, I could still pretend.
And when they finally left I didn't hurry to the phone.
I couldn't.
I waited. Through the anxiety and the fear I asked myself over and over again if I felt different. Did I feel him in my house? Would he stop here on his way to the great unknown? Would he drop in and visit my sleeping daughter who he'd only met once?
The rain was still tink tink tinking outside. The phones continued to light up and vibrate on my bed.
And then I made that phone call. The one where I heard my mom's voice, calm yet struggling, and the words were finally delivered.
"He's gone."
And I'll never forget it.
Some moments come with a burst of emotion. While others can make you feel nothing at all. Just writing this makes my hands shake.

RIP Dad.


  1. Shari

    That was a powerful story. You write with the love a daughter who misses her father. I am thankful for your pain, because I know it will too soon come for me. Every day I look at my parents-happy, contented, lifetime team players in the quilted pattern of their lives-and wonder how I'll ever cope without it when they are gone from this earth.
    I search for some sign, anything, that will warn me, prepare me, for that day. But having been a nurse for so many years, I know it will be when God says so, and not when I'm ready. I am prepared for that. But the emptiness of not being able to go to one or both of them for advice, comfort, just having someone else to talk to other then my household family for those things that are so close to ones heart-that will be the hardest thing to live with.
    My mother is my best friend, and I know I will be lost when she is gone. Dad is my rock. On those days I need support and a wise word the most-that is when I will want him here still.

    I can tell by the way you write that you will be a very fine writer. Keep up the posts. Your dad will always be with you, as long as you carry his memories in your heart.

    Pam Williams
    Watertown, SD

  2. Thanks Pam! It's good to hear from you! It's important to cherish the moments you have now. And even though it's been four years I find I still feel his presence as if he never left.
    Thanks again for your comment!

  3. Hi Shari

    I appreciated your post and realized what you must have been feeling knowing the outcome of the call. I definitely feel his presence when I play his music he so loved and played always. It gives me a lot of peace and so many memories, as I'm sure this must for you and your sisters too. His music was loved by many who would come into our video store and hear it playing, as well. He loved to please his customers with his music. Thanks for writing a great post.

  4. I just found your blog and have to say that was incredibly moving. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Thanks Laura! I'm glad you stopped by!

  6. I know it's kind of late for a comment, but Mom has been telling me I needed to read this post. I have been kind of like you were, Shari, about answering the phone. I knew I should read it, but was waiting for the right time.

    I enjoyed your post a lot. Thanks for sharing that with us.