We all have dates that are unforgettable, memorable, remarkable, and tragic. September 6 is one of mine. It was the day my Dad died. 29 years later it still remains; the feeling of loss, the immediate attention to my Mom, and comforting loved ones (family and friends).
Seeing as my 25th birthday was one month later, there was no celebration. Mourning is such a visceral experience. I learned after a period of time to walk the emotional corridors of memory, and not to look in certain rooms. Yet, two years after my Dad died, I picked up the phone to call him about a football game I was watching. I started dialling, after punching in three numbers, I was in tears – the sob so you can’t breathe kind. Somehow my mind reacted instinctively to make the call.
Overall, I’m not a big fan of death. I’ve seen two ghosts – one an apparition, the other a poltergeist. That shit’s spooky, too! On the night before his death, my Dad and I had an argument (no regrets). In the morning as I went to work, he came in from walking the dog. He asked, “You OK?” I said, “Yes and you?” “Fine” was his response, and he wished me a good day.
This is where the freaky day began. Lunch would normally be a full hour away from the store, but I felt an urgent need to get back after 20 minutes. Greeted by a staff member who was flipping out because MY Dad had been rushed to the hospital. I calmed him down, got my knapsack, and headed out to hail a cab. This was not my first trip to the hospital regarding my Dad. He had a heart attack seven years earlier, and was told by the MDs, any pain rush yourself here.
Quickly hailed a cab, the moment I sat in the seat I knew my Dad was dead. To this day I can’t fully describe the sensation, but I knew what to expect when I got to the hospital. My brother was comforting our Mom when the attending physician who had pronounced my Dad DOA approached my Mom to ask about organ donation. I didn’t envy the dude, but that’s why he gets the big bucks.
Amidst the grief, there was still time for humour. After the Doctor’s third try at asking, I said, “You wanna strip him for parts.” My brother laughed, the Doctor looked at me like I had two heads. “Give me the forms” and I stepped into a side room and filled them out, handed them back, and assured the Doctor he’d be OK. My brother and I went into the ER room where my Dad was and both kissed him one last time.
It’s been one of our family strengths to find humour in even the darkest places. The arrangements at the funeral home were no different. Mr. Joyboy – the funeral director with the cold, wet handshake – escorted my Aunty, bro’, and I down to his office. He began with a series of questions: father’s mother’s maiden name, several more, than he asked us the date of birth. To this point my brother and I were pitching a no hitter as to answering questions. Each question would be followed by both of us saying, “Aunty?” He stared at both of us, so I said, “We did know the guy, just not the details.”
Mr. Joyboy in one of the most callous acts ever reminded my Aunty that there’s only one spot left in the family plot. I held my brother back from drilling him, when my Aunty said, “That’s OK. I’m going to U of T.” All three of us roared. Next was arranging the time of the funeral. It was NFL opening weekend, so my brother and I exchanged glances and both uttered, “First game?” (1pm). Joyboy stared blankly, I explained. He said it was booked. “OK, second game?”
My Dad was a suit and tie guy (President of the Toronto Better Business Bureau), once home, on went the sweats and T-shirt. We dressed him accordingly along with three bottles of Coke and a bag of licorice pipes.
I miss and still love you, Dad.