The year 1980 started off innocently enough. Things were peaceful in our house again and my dad had a new drive to spend time with us. We tried skiing that winter for the first time. I didn’t like it much because I wasn’t a fan of winter or snow. On one particular trip, my dad told me he was having chest pain and heartburn and to please not tell my mom because she nagged him too much about everything. I felt like he was using me because I was just a kid and couldn’t do anything about it. I just had this sense of impending doom.
Then in March, it finally happened. The chest pain was just too much for my dad and he was readmitted to the hospital. This was about 6 months after his heart attack. They did another cardiac catheterization and decided it was time for him to have surgery. He was scheduled for coronary artery bypass graft surgery for the following Monday morning at 7:30 am. He wasn’t allowed to come home because he was having chest pain just laying in bed and the doctors wore worried.
We went to see my dad the Sunday night before his surgery and he was light hearted and joking about getting his “last supper”. I was too upset to even sit in the room with him while he made jokes. All I could do was cry. I was just terrified. The feeling of impending doom never left me. I don’t know how I lived through those days.
On the day of my dad’s surgery I begged my mom to let me stay home from school, but she wouldn’t let me. She promised to call the school as soon as his surgery was done to let me know he was okay. I went to school and I plodded along to class after class like a zombie. By the time 7th period came around at the end of the day with no news, I asked my French teacher if I could go use the phone to see if I could get any news. I ended up not being able to locate my mom or get any information about my dad because they don’t give information over the phone. When I headed back to my class, I broke down in the stairwell and cried and cried because I just knew in my gut that my dad was dead. It was the worst day of my life. I was truly a pessimist, expecting the worst.
School finally let out and I walked the mile to my house and nobody was home. I went to my mom’s friend Joanne’s house and she hadn’t heard anything so I took my sister and we went home and waited. Finally my mom’s friend called and said we should go to the hospital. I asked her if the surgery was over and she said no. My dad had been in surgery for over 10 hours by this time. I asked her who called her and she said it was the hospital chaplain. Hearing this news confirmed my worst fears were coming to fruition.
When we got to the hospital, my entire family was there, aunts, uncles, cousins. My family is great at supporting one another, thank God. We sat there and stared at the walls and waited for what seemed like an eternity. We kept hearing reports of things not going well and what the surgeon was trying and how other surgeons had been called in to offer their opinions. Finally around 6:30 pm, it was over. They couldn’t get my dad off the bypass machine. His heart was much worse than they ever thought and he had no strength left. I sank to the floor as I listened to the surgeon explain everything to my mom. He cried as he told her all the different things he tried to get my dad off the bypass machine. It turned out my dad’s heart was much worse than they ever knew. He told us how sorry he was and he got up and left.
Some time later, we were brought to a room to see my dad. He looked fine, like he was asleep. Everyone filed in a line to say goodbye to him, touching him, kissing him. Somebody said he was still warm. When it was my turn, I approached him and told him I loved him. I kissed him and he was already cold. I made a promise to him that I would still be a nurse one day because we had talked about my plans for the future. He liked the idea of me becoming a nurse. After everyone said goodbye to him, we all went home. There was just one person left who didn’t know he was gone. My mom was too sad to tell her, so I told my 6 year old sister that our daddy had to go to heaven.
“How could this happen?”, I asked God. “How could You take my dad away from us?” My heart broke that day and out of those fractures came so much anger and pain and grief that I told God to go away and to leave me alone, that I didn’t believe in Him anymore because if He was really real, He wouldn’t allow death and suffering. My dad was 45 years old when he died on March, 3 1980. He was my hero, the one I loved best and the one I thought loved me unconditionally and he was gone forever.