I Have Only Slipped Away Into The Next Room
As you might have noticed, I didn't do an update for April. I was fully intending on writing about our trip to Amsterdam. There was a post chock full of photos of good food and stories of The Netherlands being one of the more beautiful places I've ever seen. You know Disney World? It's like that magical but everything is real which makes it even better. Suck it, Disney World. Go to Amsterdam instead, people.
However, on April 22 our lives changed drastically. I don't have data on my phone and I can't receive phone calls from the US unless I'm near WiFi so I didn't hear from my family until later that night when I had returned home from the beach. I was emptying my sandy shoes into the bathtub when I noticed my brother was calling me. I picked up the phone and he sounded upset. I wish I could say that it was a blur but I remember everything. I remember the details of the conversation.. of how I started to freak out before he could get the words out. Our dad had had a heart attack at work and was at the hospital. The worst thoughts started coming into my mind and I consciously had to think hard to remove them.
Being in another country and having to deal with everything over the phone was especially difficult. I wanted to appear at the hospital next to my dad and see him and be there. I wanted to do something. I know that sometimes people say that they feel useless when they're waiting for news at a hospital but I felt if I could just be there, I could say something to the doctors and they would do something to save him. Maybe they needed to try something else, do something else. Maybe they weren't trying hard enough. Maybe if they just saw my desperation, they would work harder.
We got information in bits and pieces from people. I felt like maybe this would be okay. He would be okay. I kept thinking, "when he wakes up, I want to ask him what it was like". I feel now that maybe that was a ridiculous thing to have been thinking.
When we were told he was going into surgery, we planned on staying up and waiting to hear how it went. It was about 2 AM our time. I kept texting back and forth with my friend, Maria, who was there at the hospital with my family. She eventually stopped texting me. Justin got a text. I said, "what does it say?" and he looked at me and said, "come here. I need to talk to you". I knew what he was going to say. I felt like if I just kept Justin from saying it, it wouldn't be true. I felt like an animal. This very primal sadness and desperation came from the pit of where your soul sits. I remember screaming. I just kept screaming. I felt like the doctors didn't do something. They made a mistake. They need to check something one more time. They need to do something one more time. It was someone else. Not really our dad. In my mind I just kept clawing for reason that this wasn't real. I kept saying, "this isn't real. this isn't real". When someone leaves you so suddenly, it doesn't feel real. It feels like a joke. Here it is almost three weeks later and I feel like I'm still trying to make peace with the idea that it really happened. He died. I feels weird typing it out. I guess it still doesn't really feel real. Right now when I'm craving normality, nothing feels normal yet. I feel like when I get home to my family we can all process and heal together.
There is a very pronounced and strange absence you feel when someone is taken from you. I feel like I've been trying to find every conversation, every photo, every email and surround myself with them. I became quite upset when I couldn't find the email where he said, "anything for my daughter!". I wanted to throw up. I wanted to cry, to lash out. Why had I deleted that email? What kind of daughter does that? Obviously I was just trying to clean out my email inbox and in the rush and press of life, you don't think that every conversation you have with your parent is precious. They are.
I feel like through this I am both given a gift and a curse. I feel like I've had mortality raise it's head and look at me square in the face. I feel like this albatross is so weighty around my shoulders that I can't enjoy my interactions with people. It's marred by the idea of death. I feel that this is also a gift. I feel like I treasure the people in my life more. I invest time in those that matter. I feel like I make sure I answer the texts from my family in minutes rather than hours or days. I know that this preoccupation with death and mortality will fade but I'm hoping that something we can take from my dad's passing is to ACTUALLY be more present with the people in your life. You truly have no idea what's going to happen within the next hour, day, month.
During my brief time in the US for his funeral, I felt like I was able to help. I felt like that just by being there I could support my mom, my brother, my sister. I wanted to do anything. Make dinner. Take out the trash. Arrange the flowers. Put away the food from the neighbors. Anything. Today, here in Doha, I feel useless again. There is only so much you can do over the phone, over text, over FaceTime. There is something to be said about physically being in the same space.
Being there and hearing people's stories of how genuine and loving of a person he was was so helpful. What most people don't know, at least over here in Doha, is that he is my step-dad. I don't like to make the difference because, as a step-parent, I feel like the word really separates you from your children. I know it's used to differentiate but it's just that word. Step. To me it sounds like distance. One step away. That is, however, the farthest away from the truth.
He chose us. Being a step parent, you choose your children. They are a conscious decision and he chose us. All three of us. Myself, my brother and my sister. That says a lot about his character. He was there for our graduations, our birthdays, our cookouts, our everything. He was present and he made a point to show his love and his investment in our lives. When parents, be it step or biological, make those showcases of devotion, it means the world to us children.
So while this post has mostly been cathartic for me, I hope that you take something away from it as well. Please try to hug your loved ones extra hard today. Actually look into their eyes and listen to what they're saying to you. Put down your phone at dinner and look at them.
Really look at them.
P.S. If you feel inclined, my sister has set up a GoFundMe so that we can help my mom pay for my dad's medical bills and his funeral. Obviously all of this has had my mom coming into a lot of unexpected costs and anything helps. Click the button below to donate or read my sister's story.