It's been almost a month now, and I still can't believe he's gone. One minute, my father was mowing the lawn, and the next he was being rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. But there was nothing the doctors could do—he just slipped away. Worst of all, I was across the country when he died. For the rest of my life I have to live with the fact that I wasn't there at the very end to look him in the eye one last time and say, "Later, bud."
Just one more minute with him, one more second, is all I wanted. One more chance to take my dying father's hand gently in mine and whisper, "Catch you on the flip-flop."
I keep replaying that day over and over in my head, thinking about how it could have gone differently. I feel like such a fool for not rushing to the hospital from work the second I heard something was wrong! I still may not have made it in time, but at least I would have known that I did everything in my power to be there with him at his deathbed, to share one final moment together as father and son and tell him, "Hasta luego, amigo, homey. Guess we'll hook up again some other time."
It's just that you always think there's going to be more time, you know? More time for all the "take 'er easys" and "keep it reals" you never got to say. More time to get a sense of closure. Just to know that the last sound he heard on this earth would be the sound of me saying "Laters" and walking out of the room.
Sure, we weren't always as close as I would have liked, my dad and I, but he was still my father. He was the one who took me to my first baseball game, taught me how to ride a bike, and instilled in me the values of hard work and integrity. I always wanted to thank him for everything he'd done for me over the past 30 years, but I could never find the words. Well, I've had nothing but time to think about it, and now I know exactly what I would have said to him: I would've knelt down beside him in the dimming light and, as the last bit of life slipped out of his tired old body, said to him in the clearest voice I could muster, "Hey, how's it goin'? Just thought I'd pop in and see what's up. Anyways, ciao."
And with those words I finally would have expressed to him everything I'd ever really wanted to but never could.
It wasn't always easy to have heart-to-hearts like that with Dad. He was of a different generation, and he wasn't brought up to be expressive. Which is why if I ever have kids, it's going to be different. I'll make certain that we have an emotionally honest and loving relationship with each other, where it will be okay to really open up and tell the other person, "Oh, hey, what's up?" without hiding our true feelings. I only regret not having more moments like that with my own father.
Now he's gone. And no amount of crying about the fact that I missed my chance to give him one last quick "peace out" for the road is ever going to bring him back. My only hope is that somehow he knew that's what I wanted. He knew I wanted to be there with him, at the end of his life, to give him a "yo," talk about work for half a minute, pat him on the back once, and say, "All set? Okay, talk to you soon, then. Bye now."
One day I'm sure I'll see Dad again up in heaven, rush up to him with open arms, and say, "Hey." But until then, Dad, if you're up there listening, and I know you are, I just want to say, "'Sup, man. I gotta roll, but have a good one."
Have a good one.