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 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.
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.