Sunday, July 29, 2012

Seeking Dad in the sun

My father died while I was running. It was a Monday morning; eight hours earlier, we had all said our goodbyes. The hospice nurse told us she thought he’d make through the night, so when I woke up  and saw neither a text message nor heard a voicemail, I let out my breath a little, put on my shoes, and took off.

For the first couple of miles, I listened to NPR. A little before 6:30, suddenly any sound seemed superfluous, so I pulled out my earplugs and looped the cord around my fingers.
My eyes moved from the sidewalk to the sky, an endless blue canvas without even a sprinkling or a swath of white.

Without even thinking, I said out loud, “Where ARE you, Daddy? Are you in the sun?”

That’s where my friend Judy looked -- a year shy of a quarter-century ago -- for our mutual friend Gary when he died. On this recent Monday, it seemed the natural place to look, and the normal question to ask.

I finished my run around 7, went into the kitchen, cried just a little, and drank some water. I jumped when I heard the phone ring. It was my sister Susan.

“I called Daddy’s room when I woke up,” she told me. “The nurse said, ‘I can’t believe you’re calling right now. Your dad didn’t show any of the usual signs during the night that the end was close. But just now, he took a breath, and it was over. It was very peaceful.’ “

When I could talk again and after I’d wiped tears and sweat from my face, I realized I needed to ask her something.

“Hey Sister," I said. "What time was that?”

“About 6:28, I think,” she answered. “Just before 6:30.”

photo: Erich Schlegel