Good Morning and Goodbye
Waking up to coffee aromas on any morning is my preferred way of waking up. Throw in his wonderful cooking, and it was perfect. Sometimes I could see the steam from his delicious cooking come through my floor vent from the kitchen underneath. In the morning, he always had our favorite radio talk show on, and we’d laugh the morning away.
I had to be up early that morning, I knew that getting adequate sleep was important, but I never liked getting up at seven on a Saturday. In fact, I hated it. Not to mention, how bad I was to get myself up, but he said he’d wake me up. The thing is, he didn’t wake me up that morning, there was no coffee brewing, no radio booming, and no steam rising from my vent.
Maybe he overslept too…
My room started upstairs, in a loft. The stairs are a steep journey, but a journey well worth. At the bottom of the steps were two doors. One to the outside and the other for the bathroom. Our bathroom was never pretty; best to leave it undescribed. Our house was shared by guys, so you can guess it wasn’t always the cleanest. Our kitchen, cluttered with dishes, was pretty average. Sink, stove, fridge, but it did have the boombox, which we’d jam out with on nights where he wasn’t tired. Our kitchen, dining room and living room were all connected. From the dining room, you were like an all seeing eyeball. Yeah, our house was tiny, but with all of us together, it didn’t matter. We made the best of it every day. We had the most fun in our living room. We didn’t have cable or internet, so our TV time consisted of rentals and Friends marathons. My favorite thing was that he would always make the tastiest popcorn. Some could say, that this was my happy place. Not anymore.
That morning, last October, was eerily cold, heck, maybe he forgot to turn the heat on as well. October wasn’t as cold to him as it was to us, and the old fart was getting more forgetful. I walked into the quiet kitchen to see my brother preparing to go. We both had to be gone by eight, so we could make it to Bemidji for Upward Bound, a college prep program, by nine. We didn’t want to keep Jada waiting. I didn’t honestly think I had the time or effort to make food, so gas station food sounded pretty swell. I didn’t want to bother waking up my youngest brother, Adam. He would see me later. I did decide to go wake up dad and wish him farewell, maybe even give him a little crap for not waking me up. Matt told me he was in the living room hunched over the couch. What did that mean?
My dad was well renowned for his awkward sleeping positions and his terribly bad snoring. But dad’s knees were bad. Why was he sitting like that? I knew he wasn’t asleep, based on the fact that his snoring was nonexistent. Maybe he was stretching. He liked to stretch. Or, maybe he was just waiting for me to scratch his back. He loved it when I did that. . When I made it to the living room, I got the vibe that something was terribly wrong.
It didn’t feel right, leaving him like that, so I asked him if he needed some help getting back on the couch. After about five seconds of silence, he said yeah. Silly dad. Why does he need my help? Maybe he is in some sort of deep sleep, like those episodes people have when they sleep talk and interact quite well. Coming from my dad, I’d expect it. But he was awake… I knew that much. I started to lift him back onto the couch, except he wasn’t using any effort; none at all. That’s when I called Matt in from the kitchen to come help me hoist our large father back to a comfortable spot. He is a big guy. I was proud that we lifted him up. Then I took a second to observe my strangely limp father. His left arm, we accidently got it smushed under him. In any normal situation he would have yelped. I mean, it did look to be in a pretty painful spot. Matt helped him put it into a comfortable place. Dad must have really been tired to be acting like this. What was going on?
We could hear Jada pull into the driveway, and that’s when we said our goodbyes. I have a rule that comes to hugging. I prefer a person to use two hands when they hug. My dad knew that. But when I hugged him, he didn’t hug back. I looked at him straight in the eyes. His eyes were not focusing on mine. I told him that I loved him. I dont think it registered to him right away. But in a slurred speech, he said it back. Then Matt hugged him, and we left. When I walked out that front door, I felt sick. Something was terribly wrong.I knew that because of the staleness that wouldn’t leave my mouth. We hopped into Jada’s car and started to drive off. We explained to Jada what just happened; the condition my father was in. The thing she told me made my heart sink.
“Call your mom, it sounds like your dad is having a stroke.”
The next week was the hardest, most stressful week of my life, and that scenario of me waking up and seeing dad that way played like an endless record, haunting every second of my existence. Why didn’t I see it sooner? Was I that stubborn to see my own father was in pain? He now only has use of the right side of his body. He thinks slower and will hardly look people in the eyes. His hugs, still warm and cuddly, are one armed, but for him, I make an exception to my rule. I still blamed myself for not getting him help sooner. Somedays, I still catch myself blaming it all on me. The pain I felt, the pain I still feel, stays bottled up and locked away. It aches. But, we move on.
If dad would have been healthy, maybe none of this would have happened. We’d still be a happy family. I would still be able to visit him every weekend and have him take care of me, instead of me taking care of him. I miss the serious side of my father, the big scary guy. I miss his guidance; his wise words. That side of him died after the stroke, never to be found again. He still has his humor though. I still have him. He still hugs me, holds me and tells me he loves me. Except I feel as if our roles have flopped. I tuck him in at night and wish him sweet dreams, just like he used to for me. It’s as if I am fathering him; keeping him out of trouble. It’s not so bad. At least I still have him… But… I miss him…
I thank God I still have him.. I look at his silly grin when we drink coffee, and it makes me happy. Some mornings when I play our favorite radio talk show, I’ll make him breakfast and we will sit and talk about the dumbest things like a father and son are supposed to do. It makes me feel better. I had a lot of time to look back on what happened and located the facts. Dad had bad health. I knew that. But I was so blind. Blind enough to forget all warning signs. It’s all weird to think about. I try to ignore it as I sip my coffee and chit chat with my best buddy; my hero.
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