Losing a Superhero
A year ago today, at 12:40 pm, I sat at Element Salon in Green Hills with fresh color on my roots, magically turning them from grey to a coppery brown. I smiled as I thumbed through Pinterest looking for games to play with my nieces and nephews for the next evening at my family’s early Thanksgiving celebration. I remember being happy in that moment reminiscing about past holidays and how much my father enjoys Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s because of the smoked turkey and mom’s homemade cornbread dressing. Maybe it’s the stories my brother would tell, he is the comedian of the family who can take crazy life experiences and turn them into a night of laughter for all of us. But most likely it’s because it is a time for our family to settle in and just enjoy each other’s company without the anxious wide-eyed children begging to open gifts.
At 12:47, my phone rang interrupting my constant flipping through the millions of images. It was my brother but I sent it to voicemail cause I couldn’t really bring the phone to my ear with color in my hair. Immediately after, a text message “Call me as soon as you can.” I decided to call him back using speaker because the urgency was out of character for him. “Hey what’s up”
Robbie: “Where are you? Can you talk?”
Me: “I’m at the salon with color on my hair, but I stepped outside… you are on speaker though”
Robbie: “Sit down, ok? I hate to do this now, but I know you would want to know. Dad has stopped breathing. I don’t know all of the details yet, but he said he couldn’t breath and he stopped breathing. Mom tried to resuscitate, but they are in the ambulance… and Christi, I don’t think he is going to make it. They are taking him to Hendersonville Hospital”
My brother fades, my knees buckle, tears crash down, DENAIL sets in… he will make it. It’s dad! He is a SUPERHERO. This is the man I once saw crush his shin with a sledgehammer and continue on working. This is the man who doesn’t fail. This is the man who can not die. He’ll pull through, we’ll say “boy, that was a close one” tomorrow and we will thank God for giving us another Thanksgiving together.
Me: “Has anyone told Kaylee” (my daughter)
Robbie: “No, I thought you would want to call her”
I know I walked back into the salon and through tears streaming down my face told my stylist that my father has suddenly stopped breathing, she hugged me and tried to calm me. In complete shock I sat down and let her wash the color away.
I don’t remember the drive home, I don’t remember much except pain. Pain for my mother who had been his other half for 49 years, pain for my daughter because he had been a father to her when her blood one didn’t step up, pain for my grandbaby in my daughter’s belly not ready to enter the world yet who may never feel the kiss of the bearded hero she would call Grandpa, pain for my brother who had developed such a respectful loving relationship with him, pain for my sister who was the baby of the family and forever deemed his little girl. Then the pain set in for me. The one who argued with him the most, who butted heads with him on so many issues… the one who was probably more like him than either of us were willing to admit. Strong headed, independent and stubborn all wrapped in one spit-fire of a package.
Kaylee was at a conference. When I finally reached her I made sure her boss was with her so if her knees buckled, she wouldn’t fall to the ground in her pregnant state. It was the worst thing I’ve ever had to tell my daughter.
By the time I made it to the hospital, he was gone. No goodbye. No hug. No more laughs. No more arguments. No more making up. No more dad.
They say that your life flashes before your eyes when you go into the light to the other side, but they don’t tell you that the same thing happens to the one’s left behind.
I saw dad teaching me to ride a bike. I saw him coaching me in softball. I saw holiday’s, gifts, surprises, laughter. I saw us fishing on the boat in a bass tournament. I saw him cry for the first time as Kaylee entered the world. I saw her at 3 years old, standing by his bed in the morning talking gibberish that only they understood. It was like the reel of family movies playing over and over in my head.
Physically my father’s body had weakened over the years to the point where my mother had to care for him. We were always thankful that his mind had stayed strong though. The morning of November 17, my mom and dad were getting ready to go grocery shopping and were discussing their excitement about the family gathering. When my mom was helping him, as she always did, he suddenly told her he couldn’t breath. She told him he had to breath… he repeated himself once more before he took his last breath in the arms of the woman who was his superhero in life.