I talked with a friend today who asked me to write my thoughts down based on the theme:
Choices and their Consequences.
She wanted stories that could be used to HELP people realize that their Choices always come with consequences...good or bad. Although the basis of this theme will eventually be about relationships, mine needs to begin with a preface...that story will come later. But for now, I need to share the beginning...
I've thought a lot about this subject today.
Here's my story of one CHOICE.
It was December 23rd, 1986. My dad, only 48 years old, left us. Alone. We were just going through life---things were hectic for a family of 3 kids...but just riding through, things were progressing somewhat normally. My dad had already had 2 heart attacks by this time (the 1st one at 41) and so we were accustomed to heart disease. ...Then we noticed a growth, he turned yellowish grey in color and lost weight. In November of 1986, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. I remember our last outing before his hospital stay (surgery to romove the cancer)...he took me to Bermans Clothing Store to purcahse a winter coat. It was a full length blue, wool coat. It was the last check he ever wrote.
The next day, he was admitted to the hospital. He needed surgery to remove the cancer. They opened him... and closed him. They said on a scale of A-D, he was a D-...the worst. He was to be sent home, I guess to die.
It was December 23rd when I left to go to work around 11:30am. I walked past his recliner and toward the door...I looked back at his chair and thought, "When I get home tonight, he'll be back home, sitting in his chair". He was always sitting in that chair.
I can still hear Johnny Carson or John Wayne on T.V., watching my dad scarf down cream horns and circus peanuts. The CHristmas Tree was lit and I had put HIS 2 special presents under it, waiting for his return just in time for Christmas Eve.
I left for work, I didn't go see him that day in the hospital...or the day before. I don't know, it had been several days, maybe even a week since I had seen him... He was coming home, and I would see him then.
I got to work and had been there an hour when I got a call. I answered and I heard my mother's weary voice, "Dara, this is your mother..." , like I didn't know my own mothers voice...I knew something was wrong. "Come to the hospital, it's your dad... his heart...come now." I left instantly.
When I arrived into the parking lot, i drove in at the same time as my brother coming from the other direction...odd, the same exact time, my mom must have called him too, this time it must be bad. I got off the elevator on the 9th floor. His room was the first one you could see. It had a blue flag on the door...what did that mean? My heart was racing, I felt like I would throw up. Someone ushered me to a waiting room. I walked in...my mother, my dad's sister, and my dads best friend were waiting. I heard Arlon (his best friend) say..."we just need to see him being wheeled down to ICU"...what did that mean??? Oh, I get it...he would still be...alive? Good Lord! This was insane...he was coming home today...in just a few minutes. My mom was there to get his things together. He had cancer--it couldn't be his heart... Doctors!!!what do they know??? He was coming home for CHristmas, probably his last. Just let us have this time together!
The doctor came in..."I'm sorry, I tried everything I could", the doctor was crying. He was a friend of my dad's.
"He died of a myocardial infarction...a heart attack." I heard him say...he sounded so far away. My ears were ringing, all I could hear plainly was my heartbeat. It was so loud.
I screamed outloud...so loud. My brother just stared, quietly, at me. My mom dropped her head. My aunt, his sister, screamed with me. His best friend left the room.
My dad was coming home today!!! Didn't you know that??? What's wrong here?!
He has CANCER! He's supposed to come home, to have our last days together...to spend TIME together! He's only been sick for 6 weeks for goodness sake!
It's Christmas! It's December 23rd...I don't want this! He wouldn't want this!
The doctor interrupted my thoughts..."do you want to see him?"
We went to see my dad... yep it was him. Just laying there...but HE was gone...forever.
My dad...my 6' 4" strong, grey headed, deep voiced, athletic, wise, successful, head of the hosuehold, held us together, father! Was gone! I wanted to lay over him, but I was scared. I was 21 years old and wanted my dad! I wanted him to see his Christmas presents...I picked them out and he would love them! Dad?! I got you a carved statue of a sailor--because you love the story "The Old Man and the Sea", and a silly little framed poem about "The Greatest Dad"!!! I want YOU to open them---not ME! I want to talk to him...please!!! Say something!!!!!
Why didn't I come to see him...before...if only I had known!!!!
THERE IT WAS>>>the guilt! The why, the big question. I've asked that question for 24 years...what if, why didn't I, if only I had known.
But the truth?
It was... a CHOICE.
I was running late. I didn't have time. It was my CHOICE.
That's all...simple as that...myCHOICE.
A CHOICE I've lived with for a long time and will always live with.
It took many years to overcome the guilt. But I learned to cope, not to accept, but just to cope. I miss my dad. Yes, he was young...and yes, I unwrapped his presents, without him that Christmas. We buried him the day after. He was a man that taught me many things but not near enough. I loved him.
That is my first story...
A regret? Yes.
Hard to live with? Yes.
Did I learn from it? Yes.
Would I do it differently IF I had a second chance?
For now...These are MY THoughts.