At this time, exactly one year ago, I returned to my apartment after work and sat down to call my parents, a daily ritual since I moved to Los Angeles. With my parents in Detroit, I knew I had to catch them before they went to bed. On this particular day, my parents had been in Ann Arbor. My mother was having some medical tests done at U of M. I had talked to them on the phone earlier but I looked forward to my nightly tradition.
When I called, my Dad picked up. We had our usual “Hi Daddy,” “Hi Daughter” exchange. My mom was already in bed and he was in the living room watching television. He was watching the western Silverado. So I talked to him about the cinematographer John Bailey, ASC and stories he told me about the making of the film. Then we segued into a discussion about Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, a guy I dated who was a former child actor and then he started giving me advice on my love life. This was typical for us. We talked movies, my job, his job, family stuff, my cats, their cat & dog and whatever other random subjects popped into our heads. I wish I could remember every single detail of that conversation but I didn’t really pay that close attention because we talked every night and I assumed I would talk to him again the next night. I do remember telling him I was suddenly feeling so tired and I wondered if I was getting sick. He told me he was really tired too and that his leg was really hurting lately. He told me it sucks to get old. I got on his case about getting his back looked at again and the new developments made with back surgery. I had done some research for him. We talked for about an hour. This was a little longer than usual. We averaged half hour conversations unless we had some interesting stories to share or some veterans thing to talk about. And the conversation ended the same as always, “I love you,” “I love you too,” “Talk to you tomorrow,” “K, good night,” “good night.”
If I had known that was the last conversation I was ever going to have with my Dad, I would have paid attention. I would have memorized every detail. I would have recorded it if I could. I would have asked him so many questions and told him so much more. And I never would have let him hang up.
The next day, I was not feeling well at all and I kept wanting to call him. But I waited. I knew I would call him when I got home. I would continue our nightly ritual. I knew he was working and he had my nephew’s baseball game. Plus, I wasn’t feeling well and I was considering going to Urgent Care and I didn’t want to worry him.
I wish I would have called him. I wish I would have listened to my instincts and the repeating record in my head telling me to call him. When I got home that night, I sat on my couch, getting ready to call my parents but my phone was ringing instead. It was my brother. He was calling to tell me that at my nephew’s baseball game, Dad collapsed in the stands. He had sat down, told the guy next to him that it sucks to get old and then he fell backwards. He had a massive heart attack, a result of Agent Orange disease, and he was gone. Just like that. They tried everything they could–one of the coaches was a cardiologist. They got him to the hospital but he had been without oxygen for too long and there was nothing else that could be done.
So exactly one year ago, at this exact time (6:30pm) I called and talked to my Dad for the last time.
I can’t believe that it has really been a year. I still talk to my Mom every day–OK, I think we actually talk several times a day. But it is not the same as hearing his voice, his laugh, his pep talks, his advice and his jokes. I got him for 36 years–though I didn’t do all that much talking in the first year. I also know how lucky I was to have that kind of relationship with my Dad. I was blessed to have this amazing man as my father. Now as we are approaching the official one-year anniversary of his passing, I am still in shock that he is gone. I would give anything to have him back for just one more nightly conversation.