Of course I reach for my phone at the moment I wake…I’m a 45 year old active wife and mother who posts on Facebook, has my pets on Insta, drives kids to soccer, lacrosse, ballet…reads the local news every morning on the tiny screen. I CrossFit. I recycle. And of course you don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number; its 2020! And who makes calls especially at 6:00 am on a Tuesday morning? But checking FB messenger, that’s what I’ll do right away. I see the notification and click.
And the message from my half-sister startles me shockingly awake.
I am sorry for the loss.
I then check the voicemail, the call I ignored….my aunt apologizes that she is leaving this sad news on a voicemail, “I have some really sad news, your dad passed away early this morning…” I wake my husband, his eyes are wide, startled. “My father died. My father. Died.” Its a blur. I call my aunt, its been decades since I’ve talked to her, but we are connected on Facebook, to keep in touch and share pictures. I think I am tearful, the deep pit begins, that sinking feeling that pulls me like an electromagnet to deep within where its so raw. My husband and best friend, he jumps online and finds the flights to St. Louis…afternoon flight, I have a few hours, enough time to pack and think and plan. I take a shower I won’t remember, I wrap a towel around myself, I find clothes to wear. Just motions. Moving through my actions like they are in slow motion. I have time to get dressed and apply makeup. I have a lot of time, several hours until the flight leaves. Plenty of time. I drive our daughter to school, telling her that I have to get on an airplane today to go to St. Louis. I tell her my father was really sick and died and I have to be there for my mom. She nods in understanding. I tell her to be good for daddy and helpful around the house. She doesn’t know them as grandparents, referring to them as “your Mom” or “your Dad.” Her birth seven years ago was the last straw in breaking the cycle of addiction, mental illness, severe family dysfunction…the sins of these fathers will not be beset on my girl child, I was to make sure of it. I walk her to the playground as I’ve done every morning since September when she started at public school. I follow her inside to get a hug at the classroom door, she finds that odd, I never walk her into school, just to playground. I didn’t want to leave her. I don’t know when I will see her again. I drive home. “There is actually an earlier flight,” he tells me. “If you can leave in 30 minutes.” I agree; better to get there by 5:00pm than 8:30pm. I throw the clothes on the bed, he packs for me. “I’ll get you a rental car.” I thank him. “Buy something for the funeral, don’t worry about trying to find something….you’ll need the break from the house.” He knows. We have been married for over 20 years; he knows more than 24 hours at my parents’ home gets me twitchy. I left this environment years and years ago. I got healthy, sober, free. His furrowed brow shows concern for his wife….he tells me I’m strong enough for this. I stare at him. I’m on a plane in what seems like mere moments, a window seat on a tiny plane crammed next to a fellow passenger. I look at my phone, photos of my kids and family and fun things we do. I let friends know. I have urgency to be with my mom, estranged as we are, I am her only family now.