The day before my father passed had been one of those great days in a kid's life, Thanksgiving and my birthday. Every so often I was very lucky with a cake and feast for my birthday and this year was one of those lucky years.
My mum had been unwell as long as I could remember. Her illness progressed as I grew older. There weren't many things she could do on a regular basis, but bless her, she did manage Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with a bit of help from me and at times from Dad, even if it was only to remind her of timing for things.
We had the turkey, and all the fixings. Cake was dessert and Dad had bought a vanilla sheet cake with big blue roses, my favorite colour.
We had a simple evening as they watched TV in the living room and I in my room. The small flat suited us even though it was a dramatic change from the big Victorian home we'd lived in a few years prior.
The next morning Dad was as usual up early his coffee mug and plate on the counter from his early breakfast. This morning I heard him using the shovel. Scrambling out of bed with the thoughts of no school for Monday, I put on my robe and looked out the window. Little did I realize there definitely would be no school for me on Monday.
He came in after a while and saw me on the living room floor working on signs for his shop downstairs. We exchanged "Good Morning" and rather than him having his second cup of coffee for the morning he went back to shoveling. He was a stubborn and independent man, and wouldn't wait for the property owner to come with the snow blower when he could do it in a morning. Years doing just this for his own properties must have been strongly engrained within him.
A little while later as I was getting ready for a shower, I heard the worst scream I've ever heard in my entire life, even up to today, decades later. It vebrated through me as if the world was tearing apart. My mother was standing in the doorway at the back of our first floor apartment. Dad's feet were all I could see from my vantage point. My mother stood lifeless and catatonic in the doorway.
As soon as I reached Dad I started CPR, I knew he wasn't breathing as he was starting to go blue. That was the first day of my life that I used language I had been forbidden to use. Screaming for the neighbors to get an ambulance with every colourful metaphor I could remember hearing I kept at it. Breath - then 1,2,3, 4,5... Breathe- over and over again.
People were gathering at the end of the block but no ambulance yet, so I ran upstairs passing my mum still in her catatonic state and called rescue myself. Back out I ran 1,2,3,4, 5 BREATHE...over and over
Then it happened, although it was a cold New Hampshire morning with over a foot of new snow on the ground I hadn't felt a thing, no cold, nothing just the need to act. This I felt, the cool calm breeze, the peacefulness, the gentle loving adieu. In a split second that seemed ages, something had changed. Part of me could see it and I definitely could feel it. Deep down I knew. My panic that day started then and not until then. You see that was the second Dad "Died."
My Dad left me with one last present that day which would take me over twenty years to understand fully. It would take over twenty years to work through the guilt, questions and self inflicted wondering. Today I see it as a Wondrous gift. It is a gift I will carry with me all the days of my life because you see -I felt him go.