So, my father died a year ago today. I remember lots of things about that early, early morning, like not believing that he was going to die even though the paramedics all looked really somber in a way I don't remember them looking when they had come to the house before. I can say that with some authority because after so many visits, I had started to recognize some of them.
At the time, the situation seemed routine to me. I had the steps down. Step 1: Dad is having heart issues or he looks like he's having a seizure. Step 2: Call an ambulance. Step 3: Rally around him. It's going to be okay. Step 4: Dad is laughing with me in the ER about stupid things. It's what we do. Step 5: The doctor explains Congestive Heart Failure again. I understand this already from his cardiologist and his primary doctor, but I like hearing a new doctor say "eventually." "Eventually" is a word that is full of the hope that you don't have to deal with something until much, much later. See also: "at some point" and "one day". Step 6: Drive Dad home. Step 7: Watch him carefully for a while for the recurrence of symptoms. Step 8: He wants something he's not supposed to eat, so all is well.
Except on that morning, our routine was altered in lots of ways. 1: The paramedics brought out some device I did not recognize, but they would not let me stay in his bedroom to witness its use. Presumably this device was to help him breathe, which he clearly said he was unable to do. But that was when he was conscious and still talking to the paramedics. 2: His eyes were wide open when they wheeled him out of the house, and I don't remember him blinking at all. 3: I did not drive myself to the hospital. One of the police officers drove me. He told me it was going to be okay because my Dad was clearly a fighter. 4: When we got there, the nurses took me to a family waiting room, which I had never seen before in many visits there. 5: Outside, one of the paramedics who had been to the house passed by. I thanked him for helping us. He shook my hand and told me he was sorry for my loss. 6: Back inside, one of nurses and a bereavement counselor told me he was dead, which I already knew at that point. 7: I called my sister to come to the ER, not to see Dad, but to pick me up. 8: I left with her because my car was not there. It didn't really matter, though, because there was no one I needed to drive home.
In a year, I am supposed to have gained some distance from the whole thing. I hope I have, but I notice the way certain people check on me on certain dates. Mostly, it's birthdays, holidays, and the like. Definitely this week, at least on his side of the family. I don't remember them doing that when my Mom died a few years ago, but maybe they did. Or maybe my Dad did that for them. I wasn't paying enough attention, I guess.
One thing that I do know is that I still feel like an orphan. Logically, that makes no sense, I know. I had both parents for my whole life until I was well into adulthood, and they had been married for years even before my birth. But I lost one and later another, and then I felt alone. My sister is around, thankfully, but we don't get along like we should. Plus, she doesn't understand me like they did. But, in fairness, that's a tall order.