All Good Things…

As I finished my lunch that Friday afternoon, I had no idea what turn the day would suddenly take, nor did I realize the strength and capability my son, Blake, would demonstrate…

The house phone rings at around half past one. I’m seated at the kitchen table enjoying a quiet moment before I transition into an afternoon of work. Most calls to this phone are sales calls, so I resolve not to answer and opt instead to screen the call. No one leaves a message. Seconds later, my mobile phone rings. It’s my mom. I pick up at once.

Right away I can tell something is not right. I brace myself for what is to come. Someone must be injured or having a health crisis. I’m wrong.

“Daddy died,” my mom says. She cries and she sounds confused. I, on the other hand, go into automatic.

“Tell me where you are.”

It takes her a moment to figure it out. I can hear a voice in the background telling her where she is. She repeats this back to me, not fully understanding it, just parroting what she’s heard. I tell her I’m on my way.

“They want to know what to do with his body,” she says. “I don’t know what to do.”

“I know what to do,” I say, though I don’t exactly know how to do this. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

When I hang up the phone, Blake looks bewildered. I tell him what happened. I tell him I need him to come with me; I need his help. I see him slip into the same mode I’m already in.

“Do You Want Me to Drive?”

My nineteen-year-old son, the one who struggles to get out of bed because depression tells him there’s no good reason to get out, offers to drive me to his grandmother. He hates to drive, but he’s ready to help.

“What I really need you to do is to make phone calls while I focus on driving,” I say. “I’m not ready to talk to anybody, but I can tell you who we need to call.”

As we drive, I issue commands. Call Dad. Call your brother. Call the religious leader. Call Dad’s parents. Blake doesn’t miss a beat. He calls them all, although he’s uncertain about what to say. No, we don’t know what happened. Umm…my grandpa died. Please call me back.

“Where are you?” implores my mom. She’s on the phone as I’m pulling into the urgent care parking lot. “You don’t need to come.”

“I’m here and I’m coming in,” I say kindly yet assertively. I assume she’s in shock. Moments later I’m in an exam room where my mother is sitting alone, door shut, looking lost and confused. Blake watches as I wrap my arms around her and she allows the tears to flow. Blake joins in the hug.

“He shouldn’t have died,” she says. “He wasn’t that sick.”

“What happened?” I ask. I hadn’t been aware that my father wasn’t feeling well. She unpacks the tale of the past three days. Severe abdominal pain. Unable to eat. Lots of time in the bathroom. Finally forcing him to come to urgent care. Dressing him. Leaving to get the identification that he forgot at home while he heads to the restroom. Coming back to discover he’s never left the restroom. Calling for assistance. Watching helplessly as he’s moved to the floor and CPR is begun. Being told by the doctor how sorry he is for her loss. Her loss? He’s not that sick. Wait. What?

There’s a knock on the exam room door. It’s a sheriff’s deputy. He wants to know what we would like to do with the body – my dad’s body. He takes me into another room to give me details. He realizes my father had no plans for his death. He’s taken it upon himself to read Yelp reviews for mortuaries. He points me to one with five stars. I almost laugh. No. It’s okay. I know what mortuary to use. I don’t need to call the five-star-Yelp-reviewed mortuary.

I talk to the religious leader. I talk to the mortuary. I talk more to the deputy. My hubby arrives. I hold my mom. I ask the deputy to see my dad. I need to know that this is real. He makes me promise I won’t scream – I guess because this is still a working urgent care office and there are people in the waiting room. Where are the staff of the urgent care? Oh there they are – looking wide-eyed and dazed, unable to make eye contact with me.

And then I’m in the room with my dad. There’s a sheet pulled over him. I only see an arm hanging down the side of the gurney he is on. The deputy stands in the room watching me, gently, but there to make sure nothing is disturbed and ready to intervene if I suddenly lose it all. I gently pull down the sheet, just below his neck. And it’s him, looking just like himself, like he’s in a daze, his eyes open, his lips slightly parted. Suddenly I feel like the adult in the room. My dad is helpless. I am strong. My dad cannot do for himself. I must do for him. It is my job to make sure that the vessel that held him these 76 years is properly cared for.

“Oh, Dad,” I say out loud, and I touch his hand, hold it. It is cold to the touch like I’ve always heard, yet I’m still surprised how quickly our warm-blooded bodies cool to room temperature and even feel chilled. I plant a kiss on his forehead and I study him for a moment. My sister and brother cannot be here and I feel the responsibility to bear witness.

The deputy follows me across the office, by the urgent care staff, still with their wide eyes. As I’m about to re-enter the room my mom is in, I catch a glimpse of Blake walking down the hallway deep in conversation with someone. He’s relating the details. I watch him do this again and again in the three hours we wait for the mortuary transport service to arrive. My heart wells with love and respect. My beautiful son is not the young man with depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. He is the capable young adult who places calls to family and friends, close and distant. He is the one who keeps watch over me throughout the drive and wait at the urgent care and, later, the one who takes command of my car when I abandon it to drive my mother home. I see all that he may grow to be and I make note of it.

Finally, the transport workers arrive. They drape an ornate cover over my father. It makes the contents of the gurney they must now roll out of the building appear less stark. They roll him out of the exam room, through the bullpen area of the office (staff still wide-eyed and unspeaking), and out through the waiting room with its patients sitting in the neatly arranged chairs. It is awkwardly silent. No one says anything to us.

“That can’t be good for business,” my hubby says in a good- natured way to the office manager, in an attempt to break up the silence. In the moment, I’m the only one who sees the humor in this. I go back to get my mom.

Late that evening, exhausted, I thank Blake for all he’s done today. Thank you for looking after me and making sure we got to the urgent care office safely. Thank you for looking after Grandma. Thank you for making and taking all those phone calls. Thank you for getting my car to Grandma’s house.

A few days later, we leave the house early to drive to my dad’s funeral and burial. Blake is up and ready to go. He notes how he struggled to get out of bed this morning, but then he remembered his grandpa. Grandpa struggled to get out of bed himself most of the time, notes Blake. In his honor, and because Grandpa could not get out of bed anymore, Blake chose to do the difficult thing – he got out of bed. In that moment, I am so filled with love for my boy.

This post is in memory of my father, who struggled with substance abuse, with depression, with body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB’s), and with undiagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for as long as I knew him. He gave life to three human beings – two of whom I am blessed to call my brother and sister. Dad, I hope your legacy is that we learn, we grow, and that we help ourselves and others to have hope and to seek help when it is needed. Blake chose the title of this post, “All Good Things…,” noting the dual symbolism of all good things coming to an end, as well as the fact that it is the title of the last episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” His grandpa, my dad, was a devoted longtime “Star Trek” fan. He taught me to deeply appreciate science fiction, which I do to this day – as well as the occasional B horror film.

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10 thoughts on “All Good Things…

  1. This was a stark look at what happens in the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one. And I appreciate that you captured those moments as well as Blake’s ability to rise to the challenge and offer support and compassion in those moments.

  2. Paul K

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family Angie. ❤
    I'm very sorry to hear about your father.

    (I haven't placed a comment in your blog in quite some time… So just as a reminder I have been in treatment for OCD for 29 years now. I'm in my mid-50s, and I am certain that I have had OCD for most of my life, but it didn't start to get really bad until I was in my 20s.)

    I can relate very strongly to the way Blake was able to "push OCD into the background" and function at a very high-level during a crisis. This happens to me as well. I have experienced it a couple of times and I find it fascinating. If only I could sustain that level of motivation and functioning all the time! I suppose these times of crisis reveal something about just how much effort it takes to gain control over OCD.

    Your comments about OCD running in your family also speak to me. My father did not have OCD as far as I know, but he suffered from severe depression for probably half of his short 65 year life. His sister absolutely had OCD and was never properly diagnosed. She was incorrectly diagnosed with depression. I have no professional proof of this, but I know OCD pretty well ;-). She had major hoarding issues. An interesting sidenote is that she had the perfect job for someone who suffers from OCD. She was head librarian in a very large public library in a major US city. A perfect place for someone who is obsessed with organization!

    I wish you Peace as you journey through this difficult time.
    Blessings,
    Paul K

  3. Jesus.

    I felt self-conscious hitting “like” because I obviously don’t like this, but that is an excellently written post. I think that many of us are at our best during a crisis, and Blake seems to be like that. Hopefully he, too, was impressed by his maturity and will get a bump from it. I’m sorry you lost your father. It all sounds so unexpected. I’m thinking more and more about this lately because my father is finally feeling his age (88) and is starting to get fatalistic. I hope your grief abates quickly and only good memories remain.

  4. I just found your blog. Your posts are incredibly poignant. In a lot of ways, I was Blake. Unfortunately, I did not have a mother as supportive as you. Now, many years later I have sought treatment for my OCD and have successfully recovered. I see the same in Blake’s stars.

    In a lot of ways, I’m you, too. My father died unexpectedly. He struggled with substance for many years, and, I believe he may have struggled with undiagnosed OCD, as well. I’m glad to have found your blog. I wish you and Blake all the best.

    1. Thank you so much for coming to visit and for sharing. I really truly hope Blake decides to seek treatment for real again one day. Your comments give me hope that will happen. Something else we have in common, your name “OCDude”, my dad called himself Old Dude – I know it’s not quite the same, but at first when I saw your comment, that’s what I saw. Wishing you all the best, too! – Angie

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