I leaned down and placed my head on his chest to hear his heart beat. I heard nothing and started to shake with fear. I opened his eyes and saw nothing but a glaze over them and his skin was ice cold.
Choking with tears, I called for help and they said calmly,"Help will arrive in twenty minutes, sir. For now, just try to stay calm." Easy for them to say on the phone; it wasn’t their father who was stone dead in his chair.
As it started to sink in, I started to feel so guilty, I threw up in the bathroom toilet. Crawling over to the phone, I called my mother and my stepfather to tell them what was going on.
"Hello?" I heard a silky voice say melodiously. "Mom? It is Nicola. Dad is gone and I am not handling this well at all," I said, trying hard not to crack up with sorrow. "What do you mean your father is gone, Nicola? Usually he is there with you and arguing with you because of you staying out so late with your friends," she replied harshly.
I couldn’t deal with her yelling at me on top of finding out that my father has passed away. I stared at the clock numbly, seeing that it was only five minutes ago that I made the call for help. "Dad passed away, mother. He is dead in his chair and I found him. Does that explain it?" I said angrily, shaking more with anger than sadness now.
I could hear her sharp intake of breath and realizing what she would say, I screamed at her. "If you hadn’t gone off and left him, maybe he would still be here. If I had stayed home last night, I could have called for help sooner but he said he was fine and I left. This is your fault for putting so much stress on him. Not mine in the least. I was always there for him and did everything while you sat around, went shopping, and would not do a thing in the house for fear of wrecking your nails after you just had a manicure or pedicure done."
My mother stuttered and screeched and pleaded for me to stop blaming her, but I wouldn’t. "If you hadn’t married that stupid oaf of a stepfather of mine, you would still be here tormenting him, wouldn’t you? You drove him away when you said you found someone else, and you also succeeded in driving me away as well. Don’t come to the funeral or anything. You won’t be welcome there."
I slammed the phone down as hard as I could and slipped to the floor, placing my head in my hands as the tears fell from my eyes in floods. A full half hour had gone by before the ambulance arrived and I opened the door, paler than a piece of paper.
"Where is he?" the paramedic asked softly. I pointed in the direction of our den and sat on the stair steps, feeling numb with anger all over and not wanting to really answer any questions. I thought to myself that I was asleep, this is a bad dream and when I wake, I will be in my own bed and dad would be in the kitchen with a cup of coffee in his hands while he read the morning newspaper.
The paramedics checked him out and came to the conclusion that he suffered a heart attack while asleep and passed on quietly during the early morning hours. I shook my head when they asked me what to do with the body, not knowing quite how to answer without sounding rude.
"Take him to the funeral home, please. I will call and let them know everything,"I said sweetly, trying not to throw up again. They nodded sympathetically and I bit my tongue, not wanting to hear how sorry they were for my loss. What did they care? It wasn’t their problem, was it?
After they left, I cried quite a bit and made the necessary arrangements for my father’s funeral. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I stared at myself in the mirror and saw how horrible I looked. My eyes were bloodshot and puffy from crying so much, my face so pale, I looked like a ghost.
Heading into my bedroom, I closed the door and sat down on my bed, trying to take everything in and do my best to confront it as sanely as I could. He was gone and there was nothing I could do to bring him back.
Somehow, I felt like it was all my fault. I remembered last night when I told him I was going out with some friends. "You better be home at a decent time, young man. I stay up most of the damn night worrying about where you are and I hate it. Get yourself home on time, or don’t bother coming home at all," he yelled at me. "I am over eighteen, I can stay out as late as I want and don’t need you waiting up for me anyway, Dad. One of these days, I won’t come home at all and you will worry yourself into an early grave. Lighten up a little and let me live my life," I yelled back at him.
I stormed out of the house and met up with my girlfriend and a few of our mutual friends for a night of partying, not caring if my father waited impatiently for me or not. I got home at seven in the morning, closing the door behind me and heading into the kitchen.
That was when I saw that no coffee had been made and the newspaper was still out in the yard. When I walked into the den and saw him sitting up in his chair, I merely figured he had fallen asleep. After realizing how wrong I was on that aspect, I knew that he waited all night for me and when I didn’t come home, thoughts of what could have happened flooded his mind and caused the heart attack.
I shouldn’t have tried placing all of the blame on my mother. It wasn’t her fault that she left him six years ago without a care in the world and married a lush.
It was my fault that this happened, mine that he was gone and never coming back. He wouldn’t be there when I married, he would never hold his grand kids, and never play basketball with me again.
After the funeral, I stayed in the house alone, ignoring calls from my friends and family members who I never cared for anyway. I know it was wrong to shut everyone out, but I thought that it was better than loving and caring about someone and then losing them all over again.
After seven months, I realized what I was doing to myself and went to see a therapist. He managed to help me cope with all of it and I learned how to open up to people. Thing is, I never knew what mattered the most in life. You can love someone and when something happens to them and they are gone from this world, that love doesn’t disappear at all. It merely goes to another place and you will always have that person with you.
I never forgot my father for even an instant, and whenever I did something good, I knew he was proud of me for it. I made up with my mom and forgave her as she forgave me and also got to know my stepfather better than ever. My girlfriend and I got married and we are now expecting our first child. If it is a boy, we will name him after my father. If it is a girl, we will name her Nicole Elise. My first name in the female version and Elise after her mother.
When our child is old enough, we will tell her or him stories about their grandfather and say what a good guy he was. How loving and protecting his child was important to him just like it would be to me.
Don’t let anger and hate rule your life. Those two things do so much damage to you and those you love that you don’t realize it until it is too late. Instead, let hate go and love embrace you. Have happiness rule in your life next to love instead of anger. You will be rewarded in the end for doing so, trust in that.
"Dad! Wake up, now. It is time to eat dinner," I said, shaking his shoulder. Nothing, not a blink of an eye, nor a movement whatsoever. I whistled, banged things around, hollered, yelled, everything I could do to make loud noise, I did it. Still no sign.
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