Part 2: Night
The next day, Saturday, was typical. We had been running errands and doing things to keep the kids busy. It was cold that day, but still beautiful. I was excited about spending the evening my friend and her family. We had planned for our kids to play together. As the kids played, my friend and I chatted at her dining room table. We were having a fun conversation about our families when I remembered I hadn’t called my dad yet. This sparked discussion about our father/daughter relationships. She was a daddy’s girl and had lost her father a few years prior. I had talked about being one of four daddy’s girls. We exchanged stories. We laughed. She had asked me about my dad. I told her of his sense of humor and the time he “eased” my fear of flying.
I was scheduled to fly back to college in North Carolina one fall. I hated flying. Daddy had unsuccessfully tried to reassure me that everything would be fine. When he realized I was still afraid he had asked me why. I told him because God made our feet to be on the ground and that it bothered me how we had no control if something went wrong in an airplane (this was pre-9/11). In a car, I could unfasten my seat belt and jump out; I could run to a different car on a train; I could try to escape through an emergency window on a bus; but a plane had no options. He adamently disagreed and said there is always an option on a plane. I foolishly asked ‘What?’ He walked me through an elaborate scenario:
“Pretend you’re sitting in your seat on the plane. The captain says prepare for a crash landing. Do what I do: Spread your knees while in a sitting position.”
I spread my knees.
“Lock your fingers and cover your head with your hands. Be sure to protect your neck.”
“Tuck your head (still covered) between your knees.”
“Squeeze the sides of your head and hands with your knees.”
“Bend down as far as you can.”
“Bend over as far as you can and . . . Kiss your butt goodbye!” Hysterical laughter.
He hugged me tight and kissed my forehead after that joke and told me it would be alright. My mother and sister had teary-eyed laughs at my expense that night.
My friend and I laughed as I told that story. I needed to make sure I called him.
I left her house late that night. The kids were tired. I was worn out from all the food and laughs. It was late when we returned home. I had promised to call Daddy Sunday. I really just needed some sleep.
I checked my phone for the time as I climbed into bed. I laughed at my husband’s joke just before I swung my legs onto the bed to ease under the covers. My head barely touched the pillow before Daddy’s ringtone blared from my phone. I thought it strange that he’d be calling so late. He must be calling to tell me what the doctor said, I thought. Still laughing at my husband, I answered the phone. My sister. I would never hear his voice again. I should’ve called him.
I laid awake all night that night. I laid in a fetal position for what seemed an eternity, crying and frantically trying to recall the sound of his voice. I had lost a part of me, the very foundation that made me – me. He was gone. I remember cycling through the date over and over in my head. I memorized it. It was still dark, in the wee hours of the night when the tears stopped. There weren’t any left. That was when it happened. The moment I was all cried out. It was that moment that I found it.
The initial time spent grieving lent itself to all life’s regrets. Thoughts of how he would never get to know my youngest son (his name-sake). Thoughts of how he wanted to spend more time with my oldest son, but wouldn’t have the chance. All the could’ves, should’ves, would’ves. But as the tears dried, I realized life had to go on. I had two amazing sons that could not afford to see me only focusing on life’s regrets. I had to be strong for them and for myself. It was when I was all cried out that I remembered the airplane story, the funny jokes, the last thing he said to me and how we had laughed; the last time he hugged me. That night I found something special. Through memories of Daddy’s laughter, his sense of humor, I found my strength. And with that strength, I finally fell asleep, chuckling through gasps of breath, remembering Daddy.