Part II: Alone in the Crowd

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 AM

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.


Part I: Waking Up From Childhood

I Wish I Could Go Back In Time

Well, I hid all my previous posts—they’re quite embarrassing. Despite the endearing cheekiness of my previous self, I’ve decided to hide my previous posts until I find the courage to show them to the public once more.

But I kept my promise, didn’t I? I’m still writing in this damn thing. Albeit, the last time I wrote in this thing was years ago. I must admit, though, compared to the me three years ago, I’m not nearly as talented with the pen as I use to be. Perhaps I just haven’t had as much time to think about the pedestrian topics I use to think about; things like boundaries, commuting, friends, or love. These topics still come to me, but I am so busy with work that I can’t even find the time to gather enough sleep.

But if you’ll stay with me for the next few minutes, here’s what’s happened in my absence. Buckle up. My life went from drab and gloomy to indefatigably stressful to nostalgic and sorrowful.

A Job

Let’s step back a few years…

Fall 2011

Graduation. GRADUATION! That’s all I was thinking about at the time.

This will be over soon…So soon. I just need to get through all of these grueling classes and I’ll be free. The world will look so different when I get out of here. Won’t it?

I was taking 3 400 level CS courses, all of which were stressful, but to be honest, I spent most of my time struggling through my mathematics minor. I seriously spent over 70% of my time trying to force my way through Group Theory and Elementary Mathematical Logic (read: proving mathematical axioms). Dear Lord, going for my math minor was such a mistake. I literally breezed through my CS courses. In fact, had I actually chosen a different field to minor in, I would’ve been able to take 5 400 level CS courses with absolutely no difficulty—that’s just how much I love the field.

Regardless, I steeled myself and prepared for the very last round of exams, projects, homework assignments, and hellish commutes.

Fast Forward: Winter 2012-2013

I graduated, but I decided not to go to my graduation; they were going to charge me $300. 300 BONES! Seriously?! To hell with the graduation ceremony! I got my B.S. of Computer Science and I’ll be damned if the University of Maryland was going to take another God-Damned dime.

I was hired at a software engineering company, which I still work at, up in Connecticut. Me and my parents sprinted around the area to look for an apartment for me to stay in. Afterwards, I jump-started my career as a software engineer with my very first (real) job; it also pays handsomely, if I do say so myself.

The rest of 2012 is just a blur of mindless work and random visits home—visits I would soon miss. Visits I wish I could redo. I took too many things for granted last year. When I finally figure out how to put myself back together, I’ll come back and write about it, but, for now, let’s skip ahead to the past 30 days.

January, 2013

13. Not my lucky number. Not a number I’m very fond of. It’s prime, which is cool. But…it marks the year of my mother’s death, so it’s not so cool.

A Party/Joke

On December 31st, 2012, I went to my friend’s New Years Eve party. It was your typical hackneyed house party. Only a handful of coworkers and friends showed up. We counted down the seconds to midnight and played beer pong. Nothing all that special.

On January 1st, 2013, I texted my dad and wished him a happy New Year. He didn’t reply until 6-7 in the evening, informing me that mom had gone to the hospital. She came down with a bad case of Influenza B. OK. Nothing to be concerned about. She’s only 48 years old—soon to turn 49 in February. Plus, she runs marathons—yeah, as in, she has ran multiple marathons and actively trains for future marathons. She was in better shape than me! She could probably whoop my ass. So when I heard she had gone to the ER, I figured they would give her an IV with saline water—an expense that reaches several thousands of dollars by the way—and then send her home. No big deal.

Hell, I was so confident that I even toyed with the idea of her dying in my head.

What if she died? Haha. That’s a good one. I suppose I could play the well known non sequitur gag on my friends. I’ll just tell them my mom went to the hospital and then I’ll quickly switch the topic to sports or something totally unrelated

Never in my life would I ever regret such a thought, even in jest.

Stupid me. Don’t you realize that words have power?! Don’t even dream of these things

A Call

A call came at 8:00am on January 2, 2013. I’ll never forget it. I was tired and I had gone to bed really late the previous evening—or rather, earlier that morning. My dad’s voice. Shaking. Doleful. He sounded like he didn’t know where he was, just that he needed to tell me something.

Andrew, I don’t know how to tell you this, but mom passed away last night. I’m really sorry

My response:

Is that so?

I honestly didn’t even register the message. It was so unbelievably surreal that my fleeting thought of using my mother’s admittance to the ER as some sort of punchline had actually come back to punch me in the gut. What a sick irony to be a part of. I didn’t quite like this joke.

I’ll be home later tonight

I said.

OK. I’m really sorry. I don’t…I don’t know what to tell ya. I’m really sorry

My dad coughed up a response to that liking. I can’t quite remember it all. I immediately hung up the phone and dashed to my computer.

A Flight Out

Power button. Click. BIOS boot and POST. Loading…Come on. Come on. Go faster, God dammit.

Windows 7. Log in. Clack clack clack. I enter my password. More loading…God dammit. Faster, faster…

I always fly out of HPN. It’s the closest airport and it offers cheaper flights via US Airways—a terrible airline, if I might add—and shorter lines at security.

I booked a ticket with an arbitrary return date. Now, this was before I actually knew about bereavement fares, which is something you should keep in mind if you need to fly out to a funeral. This mis-step would end up costing me approximately $800 dollars later down the road. No worries, though. My mistake. Plus, I don’t care about money at this point.

The earliest flight I could reasonably make was at 5:00pm. That would get me into DC around 6:00pm, but with all of the delays our airline industry suffers through, I imagined we wouldn’t be in DC until 6:30pm.

We took off. Not many people were at the airport—either of them. Odd. Regardless, I arranged for my close cousin to come by and pick me up from Reagan National. We arrived at home, but my father was absent—he was picking up his brothers from the airport.

I sat down on a stool in front of the island in the middle of the kitchen, waiting to wake up.

I didn’t.

Part II sometime soon.