A Long Night
The screen door creaked as my dad pulled it open. I heard his keys jiggle as he zipped the door unlocked. There was always a way about how he handled the door lock that was idiosyncratic—I could always tell it was him opening the door.
He swung the front door open, with his two brothers in tow. I walked up to him and gave him a hug.
Hey, Andrew. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.
He whispered. I could tell he hadn’t had a moment’s rest by the stench of his breath; he obviously had been too busy to take the time to brush his teeth.
His brothers both gave me a hug and offered sincere condolences.
I’m so sorry, Andrew. I’m sorry that this is happening to you.
I knew that my dad and both of his brothers had lost their father, my grandfather, just a little over a year ago, so I was fairly certain that they understood what I was going through. Albeit, I doubt they could’ve imagined just how shocking it was to lose a mother at such a young age; if you’re wondering, I’m 24.
Over a Glass of Wine
When I was growing up, my father was the type of man to hold his feelings in. He wouldn’t show any type of emotion under any circumstances. Now, that doesn’t mean he didn’t show that he loves me. My mother described my dad best:
He’s like a stone. A rock. But deep down, he’s a teddy bear.
I can’t really describe it, the moment you see your own father meltdown for the first time in front of you. There’s nothing quite like seeing a completely different side of someone you’ve known your entire life.
Regardless, my dad wearily made the remark,
Well, I dunno know about you guys, but I’m going to have a [glass of] wine. I dunno if that’s in bad taste, but I think I need one.
He couldn’t have said it any better; we all needed one.
My father, uncles, cousin, and I shuffled into the dining room and began gulping down some refreshing beverages.
How was your flight?
Oh, it was good. Not too many people at the airport. Security was light.
Yeah, yeah. Same here.
After a healthy dose of the usual banal chit-chat, someone (I don’t remember who) broke the ice. I don’t remember who or what we spoke about, but it was on the topic of what transpired earlier that day—more specifically, how my mother passed away.
My father recalled New Years Eve. My mother was under the spell of Influenza B and she hadn’t had enough liquids to sustain herself. Her lack of fluid intake had gone on for a few days and it was worrying both my father and my mother.
Later that day, they both went to the hospital. In order to get my mother into the hospital, the staff had to lay my mother on a gurney and wheel her in. After the usual administrative “insurance handshake,” my father had the opportunity to speak with a doctor to explain what was wrong with my mother.
I think she has the flu.
Oh, how do you know that?
She (my mother) is exhibiting flu-like symptoms. She’s also dehydrated.
Well, we’re going to have to run some tests.
After 6 hours of testing, the doctors concluded that my mother did indeed have Influenza B and administered saline water to re-hydrate her. With no known treatment for Influenza B, the doctors discharged my mother and advised my father to give my mother a mix of water and Gatorade every so often.
My parents arrived home at approximately 8:30 PM. My mother was very weak and ill at this point, so she decided to head off to bed with my father in tow.
At approximately 1:30 AM, January 1st, 2013, my mother woke my father and asked him for some water. He quickly obliged and fetched my mother a water/Gatorade solution, just how the doctors at the hospital had instructed him. My mother quickly guzzled the drink, much to my father’s surprise. My father, still somewhat concerned, laid back down in bed and dozed off.
4:30. The skeuomorphic clock with false-wooden panels and big red LEDs glowed with the time: 4:30 AM. My father turned to his left and saw my mother lying very still. He noticed she wasn’t breathing and felt her cold hands.
He frantically tried to awaken my mother, but to no avail. He dialed 9-1-1 in order to summon paramedics. While the first-responders were on their way, the 9-1-1 operator instructed my father to attempt CPR. All of these efforts were in vain, as my mother had been dead for far too long.
Back at the Dinner Table
Fast-forward. My dad was in tears.
I feel so bad. So bad!
I was a mess. Everyone at the table was a mess. We were all so heartbroken. My father, try as he might, couldn’t save my mother. It was like a wave of helplessness had overcome us.
What the hell? The hospital didn’t do anything? They couldn’t have kept her for a night? Just to keep an eye on her? Maybe that wouldn’t have helped.
So many questions. None of it mattered though. Nobody really cared about those questions. Everyone knew that answers wouldn’t bring my mother back. And the only thing everyone wanted was my mother back.
Just then, my uncle Todd came in through the front door.
More in Part III.
Just as a notice, my father’s brothers, my uncles, are named Tom and Steve. I didn’t mention it earlier because it won’t matter until later in this story.