I took His life right around this time a decade ago. I keep telling myself He was never going to recover. It was merciful. It was the honourable thing to do. It was what I was placed here to do…transition others. The little things we tell ourselves to ease the pain of the difficult decisions. Divine purpose or not, I killed My Dad.
Regardless of how it ended, I was granted the sweetest goodbye to the best friend I’ve ever known. Following the car accident, He slipped into a coma. We waited and waited. I was angry that He was put on a ventilator. I felt like I failed Him. Waited some more. Every day I drove to Knoxville from Crossville hoping that day would be the day He would come out of it so we could get Him back on his feet. He had so much life left to live. His granddaughters needed him. I needed him. And then, midway through the 3 weeks of Hell on Earth, I got the call. He regained consciousness. Luckily, I was close by. They had taken Him off the vent, but He was very weak. I rushed to His bedside, held His hand, kissed His forehead and looked Him in the eyes…well…eye…and said, “I didn’t do this to you. Please know that.” He nodded His head and smiled that crooked smile through the oxygen mask.
“I love you”, I said, trying remain strong. Something inside me knew this was the last time I would have the chance.
Through the mask, His throat raw from the tubes, His raspy voice croaked, “I love you too, Son.”
I couldn’t have written a better Goodbye. No better ending to our relationship could have been scripted.
Later that afternoon, He crashed. They put Him back on the vent. And 8 days later, I ended His life on this earth. 65 years. And He missed the best part of it.
My Brother died in 1999. He had come to me in dreams and visions. I don’t talk about it publicly because who wants to be committed. But it is true. I saw My Nana after she died, too. My Father? Not a single day. Not even in a dream. It was as if he was removed, the only remembrance, the many photos and a lone voicemail I managed to save. He just reads me off a Fax number. The ONE time He DOESN’T tell me He loves me on a voicemail.
Tonight, My Father spoke to me again. And now, I’m a disheaveled mess. Happy to be alone. I don’t like people seeing me this way.
Aww, Eddie…I want to tell you, if tonight was some sort of sign, that you were right. About it all. I should have listened to you. And everybody, for that matter. But, not that you ever wanted or needed me to say it, you were right. I don’t get to talk to Tori or Emily anymore all that much. Mattie is phenomenal. The best you could have hoped for. Bright, funny, beautiful, goofy. It is as if I crafted her from clay. She is brilliant. And you would love her. And she would be glued to you the same way she is to me. She saved my life when you weren’t there to. Kelli and Zack are doing great. You would melt over Aubrey. Catie is married now. Missy and I reconnected and are actually brother and sister now. I know that would make you smile. You hated that we were estranged. You didn’t seem to like that aspect of me. I’m trying really hard to not be so insular. Mom and I get along famously. She really filled the void. She is one of my closest friends. Maybe you had to die for that to happen. Who knows.
Divorce fucking sucks, Dad. And I’m sorry if I ever made you feel bad. Or if I hurt you. I know I did. And I’m sorry. I regret every cross word. I regret so much.
And tell Granny I’m sorry. For failing her. I lost the house and the land. Reverse mortgage scam and some unfair dealings with people close who should have…well…no use in getting into it. I’m sure you know. So many regrets.
Getting older sucks. I quit doing radio. I died since I saw you last. I came back though. Didn’t see you there. Got really sick. A few times. Had a brain thing that almost did me in. Got better. Fell off a mountain…twice. Almost got sucked into the Atlantic. Some close calls. Maybe it was you watching over me all along? Who knows. Got in a nasty car wreck…almost took my life…I’m lucky to walk. Typical us, right? “Rode hard and put up wet”, as you would say. I hurt a lot. But I am alive. And I’m chasing my dreams. Finally.
But it isn’t all bad. I’m in graduate school to be a teacher. Like you, I got tired of working for other people. I started my own business. Not officially…but I’m taking the steps. And, I just signed with a talent agency. That’s right. I’m finally doing it. I hope you would be proud.
My biggest regret, Dad, is that you didn’t get to see me happy. You were there for so much of the pain and misery of my youth. You really should be here for this. That’s right, Dad. I did what you never had the courage to do. I tried again.
Chrissy…man, I wish you two could have met. She’s a nurse. Don’t say it. She is a good nurse. She knows a LOT about medicine. She is gonna be a Nurse Practitioner. Her daughter, Sara, is everything you would love. Bright, Sassy, Funny, and beautiful. She is the Universe’s payback for…well…everything. Teenagers are hard. But she is one amazing kid. She reminds me a lot of me when I was her age, though she would gag if I told her that. She is 16 and hard working. I’m very proud of her. That’s right. Not only did I get married again…I took on being a stepdad again.
You taught me a lot of things. A lot of things you tried to teach me and I was too bloody ignorant to listen. A lot of things you taught me by example. This next part is gonna be as hard to hear as it is to say. You taught me life’s greatest lesson, not in your strength and bravery, but in your weakness and fear. I never understood why you wouldn’t just take the leap. And I get it now. I used to gripe at you constantly that you wouldn’t as Sue to marry you. I wanted that woman to be my stepmom so bad and you knew it. I get it now. I understand your pain. Just like, after going through everything I went through with Mattie, I understand Mom’s. I had to lose my family and endure that agony to fully appreciate why you chose to die alone. I almost did.
I sat in a recliner, sick for days. Actually, I had been pretty sick for months. A walk-in clinic prescribed me an inhaler. I took it. I felt worse. The next day, I took the dosage but coughed it out. So, I took another. Wrong move. My throat began to close up. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t talk. And I sat there, weak, losing consciousness, fighting like Hell to stay with it. I dialed the last number I could, a dear friend. It was a realization then that my closest friends and confidants were all so very far away. My closest relationships weren’t close at all. Even my friends, I kept at arm’s length. I fought back…came to…managed to get help. It was a close call. But I thought of you. I thought of how you spent your last years alone. It wasn’t until my own car accident and emergency surgery that I finally stopped fighting Life. And, as soon as I surrendered to it, God brought me a wife. I had to convince her, but Chrissy has been the key to a door I thought was sealed forever. She is my best friend. Maybe you had to die to surrender that title. Who knows.
I think of you every day, Dad. There isn’t a single day of my life that I don’t pause for a moment and look at one of your pictures we have hanging in the house, or something happens and I wish you were here for it. 10 years later, Old Man, and I’m 10 times the cook I was then, and I KNOW how you loved to eat my food.
“If you could have 5 minutes with any person, living or dead, who would it be?”, the cliché asks.
You are always my answer.
I wish you could have gotten over your fears and hurt. Maybe it’s true what you said…maybe you never stopped loving Mom. Maybe she was your one all along. Maybe you just didn’t want to get hurt again. Maybe you were irreparably broken.
Thank you for raising me stronger than you. Thank you for raising me in whatever way you did that made me NOT give up, despite how many times I tried or wanted to.
You would absolutely LOVE these people in my life right now. I think so many times how much my two Eddies would get along. Chrissy’s stepdad is named Eddie. You two could talk for hours, swapping stories and entertaining one another. Her parents are truly wonderful people. I wish you could be here for it. Her mother is one of the sweetest and kindest souls I’ve ever met. Good, Christian people. You would really fit right in. I’m sorry you can’t.
I talk to Mattie about you a lot. She was young. Those memories are beginning to fade, paving ways for new ones. Her mom’s new husband’s Dad passed away suddenly a couple of years ago. Cancer. It really hit her hard. Eddie is the only grandfather she has now. Reminds me of me growing up. Eddie is a good man, like Sam. So…don’t worry. She and I are fine. We’d be better with you here. But that’s where you taught me your other Life’s Lesson: Take care of yourself. I will not repeat your careless health mistakes. I’m in better health today than in years. And, you guessed it, Chrissy.
You really should have tried again. I’ve never been happier. And, in that regard, I know I’ve made you smile that crooked smile.
I’m not gonna say it here, because I already said it before you left me. But you know.
Thank you for everything. These 10 years have sucked without you…but it’s starting to turn around.
Thank you for the Life Lessons. And Thanks for the note. I’m not sure why you left it there or what it’s supposed to mean. Pretty sure you’re telling me to go to church. I will tell you as I always did, “I’ll think about it”.