23 Aug

Here I am, unlocking our new house for the first time! Can’t you feel the dogs’ excitement?? Stephen and I went over there on the closing date of April 12, took the dogs around, introduced them to the doggie door, which is about the best thing to ever happen to them. We made plans for painting walls and replacing screens and getting new furniture and getting rid of old furniture.

My parents and niece came over, too. My dad and Isabelle hadn’t yet seen the inside, so we all went on a tour. They didn’t stay long. Isabelle was bouncing around like a five year old does, the dogs were chasing her like dogs do, my mom had an early morning meeting and my dad was really tired. I hugged them all goodbye, my dad right around his ribcage, my arms circling the same spot where strangers would be applying CPR almost exactly 12 hours later.

When my mom called me at work to come to the hospital, my hands were shaking as I unlocked my car. It surprised me, because I didn’t consciously feel that worried. My 62 year old father had been to the doctor a few months back and been told he had the health of a 40 year old. A fit 40 year old. He rode his bike to the BSU gym almost every day, and the gym was where he had collapsed, and that was all I knew. As I drove I thought of when I was a kid and my parents were late to come home from dinner out, and how my worry would snowball into wondering which aunt or uncle I’d live with now that I was an orphan. As a kid I’d remind myself that it had never been anything before, and that they’d always come home. That’s what I thought on the drive to the hospital: it’s never been anything before. Everyone’s always ok.

They took him off life support about a day later. Even with no brain activity, he was so healthy that his brain stem kept his body going for three more days. My mom and my dad’s best friend stayed with him in the hospital those days, when they moved him out of ICU and to a room with a shower and extra bed. When there was nothing else to do for him, so they made my mom comfortable instead. I said my goodbyes before we took him off life support. I watched his empty body gasp for air as they pulled out his breathing tube, and then I left and didn’t go back. It was too hard to watch him sleep, the same as when he’d doze off while reading, and know he wasn’t there.

I don’t regret that I didn’t stay those days it took  his body to catch up with his brain. I do regret that I didn’t rage when we knew there was no hope. When the doctor showed us the CT scans and explained the dark spots. I regret that I didn’t unhook IVs and throw around telephones and overturn hospital beds and scream until they heard me over the babies crying in the maternity ward three floors down. My dad’s life deserved a grander send-off than stoic weeping and quiet phone calls and patient waiting for organ donor consults. I should’ve burned the place down.

People who go through trauma talk about the break into Before and After. My dad never saw the new house with furniture. He never picked me up for our Sunday breakfast from my new house. He never made fun of me for how spider-freaked I am about the new basement. He never saw the garden he built me thrive in the new backyard. He never gave me advice on how to keep my new lawn from dying in 105 degree heat. He never helped me figure out how to turn the water off when my new water heater leaked. He never came over to grill burgers on the new barbecue. The house is full of his absence. Full of the After. But maybe because of that, the memories I have of the last time I saw him living are especially vivid. How he smiled when ducking his 6’6” frame under the doorways in the basement. How I teased him about all the free home improvement he was going to do for me—where I wanted the bookshelves and the garden gate—and how he said that he was happy to do the work, as long as I knew that “you get what you paid for.” How he checked out the backyard fence where I told him it was wobbly. How he greeted my dogs with the same wrestle-y pets he gave every dog, and how they loved it.

These new rooms where I live in last memories. Memories that are easier than the questions: when his heart stopped, did he feel it happen? Was he scared? Did I tell him I loved him when we said goodbye that last night? What if all the brain scans were wrong, and he would’ve been one of the “miracles” that comes back despite supposed brain-death?

But those are questions about Before, useless in the ever-After. He’s gone. And I miss him.


3 Responses to “Afterwords”

  1. Kate August 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    Oh, Cam. I’m so sorry about your dad. *hugs*

  2. Lucy August 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    You are so brave for reliving this terrible moment by posting it here. I know it was so painful for you and continues to ache. I’m so sorry for your loss. This utterly and completely sucks and I would have been right there beside you, helping you heave hospital beds out the window. The whole thing was terribly, utterly UNFAIR.

  3. Vivren August 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    I am so impressed that you wrote this and shared it because it’s beautiful and great. I miss your dad too. I hope the After will lose some of it’s sharp edges over time.

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