January 18th, 2011

“I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can.”

My father died of cancer when I was eight years old. I remember one morning, out of nowhere, he called me into his room and told me that an ambulance was coming to pick him up because he didn’t feel well. He had had his finger removed maybe 15 years earlier because of a tumor. He knew. Thinking back on it as I got older, he knew that day what was happening. I didn’t have a clue.

He said to me, “What should we tell your brother?”

Trying to be a big boy, I said, “Tell him everything is going to be OK.”

He smiled.

Maybe what he wanted to tell me was that he loved me so much and that he hoped to be back as soon as he could. Maybe he did say that, I don’t know. I don’t remember anything else from that day.

Four months later, I came home from playing at my friend’s house and my mom met me in the kitchen. She said, “Your father didn’t make it today.”

He’d been in the hospital the whole summer, or at least it seemed like it. I hated going there. How could I have known that every day I went out and played with my friends and he laid in a bed, alone, without me, would be time I could never get back? Time that I’d give so much for now. Time that I’ve regretted my entire life.

The day he died, the hospital must have called my mom. They must have told her that he wasn’t doing well and we should probably go. But I didn’t go. It wasn’t even mentioned to me. I didn’t get to choose. My mom made the choice for me. I guess it’s an impossible situation. How do you choose to let your eight year-old son watch his father die?

She said that he thought we were there, my brother and me. He was talking to us. The doses of morphine were so strong that he couldn’t tell we weren’t standing next to him. I don’t know if that’s true or not, maybe I should ask.

I wish I could have been there. As I got older, I grew angry with my mom for not giving me the option. It was the last time I would have ever gotten to see my father alive, and I wasn’t there. But again, that’s an impossible decision so I can’t blame her for it. Being a father myself I can’t imagine it.

People were lined up at the funeral home around the block for the viewing. My dad must have had a lot of friends. I remember hating all of the sympathy. I still hate it. It’s strange, but the sympathy hurts more than anything else. Maybe that’s because it makes you realize that this is real.

I walked up to the coffin and kissed his cheek. I had no idea what to do. He was ice cold. To this day I can remember the image. Blue jacket, white shirt, red tie. Is that weird?

I don’t really know how to end this story. My friend’s wife’s mother died a couple years ago, and really the only time I’ve ever said anything even remotely like what I just have was in an email to her.

I guess it’s odd that somehow, a news flash so seemingly unrelated to me could trigger emotions so deep and personal. That when I read that line, my memory of everything above flashed through my mind in an instant.

Maybe what I really read was “Goodbye.”