Thursday, February 10

day 10297: “yesterday was plain awful…”

Ten years ago, yesterday, my father dropped dead in front of me. We were at a fencing class that I made him go to despite the fact that he had just gotten back from a business trip earlier that evening. He was tired and stressed and clearly didn’t want to go. But I did, and that was enough for him.

He had just fought a match. Win or lose, I can’t remember. He shook his opponent’s hand, turned to walk away and collapsed, epee falling to the ground. I can still hear the sounds… the clatter and the thud. And then the silence before anyone could react.

Someone went to call 911. Someone else came and started administering CPR. I didn’t know what else to do, and ran to find an old law teacher who used to be in the army. In my panicking mind, he was the solution and the salvation. I abandoned my father to complete strangers who I thought didn’t have a clue about what they were doing, and tried to find help. Little did I know that one of them was actually a medical resident. Poor guy, he must be scarred still.

Three flights of stairs up, I burst into a room not remembering that it was Thursday night, and that law was taught on Wednesday. Blank stares all around… it was a Mandarin class, and no, she did not know where Mr. Halloran was and went back to talking about the characters she had written on the blackboard. The characters spelled out barbeque pork.

I ran down the hallway, anxiously looking into the classroom windows, trying in vain to find him. He wasn’t there… not on the third floor… there was no way I could comb the school looking for him. There was no time. I had to get back. I needed to find help.

And then I ran into Andrew who kept asking me where his girlfriend was and didn’t hear my whispers for help through my unsteady breathes. I don’t remember what I said to him afterwards, but I think I told him to fcuk off. I hope I told him to fcuk off.

When I got back to the gym, I could hear the sirens. Fire trucks, the first to arrive… I kicked away the dropped epees and face masks. I didn’t care if they broke. I just wanted them out of the way. I dropped to the ground beside him, rocking and whispering “I’m sorry.” His eyelashes fluttered once, maybe twice and that was it.

The firemen came. The police came. One of them played with the dial on the oxygen tank despite admonishments from the firemen. Some of them chatted about budget cuts and why they didn’t have defibrillators on the firetrucks.

I wanted to yell at them for being so callous. My FATHER was DYING on the floor and THEY WERE TALKING POLITICS. But I didn’t and kept rocking and kept apologizing for dragging him there.

A teacher came and led me out of the room to the school office to call my mother. I was brutal when I told her. Not knowing what to say... had I thought of it beforehand, I could have softened the blow instead of saying that something had happened and everyone was there and that we were all going to go to NYGH. There must have been something else that I could have said.

But I didn’t think. I couldn’t think… I should have thought.

The drive to the hospital was a blur. They put me in the back of a police cruiser. I wanted to ride in the ambulance. I remember thinking that they were idiots and why didn’t they drive any faster, and that there was surprisingly little leg room in the back. I guess criminals don’t need to be comfortable.

We drove by the house. My uncle was just pulling into the drive way to pick up my mom and my sister to take them to the hospital. Ever practical, and not really knowing the situation, my mom got my sister to bring her homework with her. Just in case.

I remember the waiting room – the private room they reserved for the “really special cases” - the ugly grey chairs, the nurse in the pink uniform who tried to hold my mother’s hand. I remember slamming my fist into the wall, angry and frustrated that we weren’t hearing anything and that I couldn’t do anything to make things better. It was the first time I lashed out in anger, but not the last.

Later that night, my uncle drove me back to the school to pick up the car. The streets were muffled by the freshly fallen snow. Everything seemed so still, as if the world knew that my heart was broken, and it grieved along with me… tears that no longer could be shed, a mind trying to grasp at whatever memories remained.

For years afterwards, I believed that I killed him. I believed that it was my fault that he died, and if I had not forced him to go to class with me, he would have lived until he was 82. I harbored it deep inside, believing that I had killed my father, and for that reason, rationalized that my life wasn’t important and that I deserved to die early too. I didn’t care what happened to me. I didn’t care about anything. I just went with the flow, let things carry me along and did the minimum I needed to do in order not to excessively worry my family.

I didn’t want to die. But I didn’t want to live either. I had been daddy’s little girl for a very long time, but things changed, and I grew up. I was forced to grow up. It was my responsibility to be strong which is why I’ve never told anyone what happened that night; bits and pieces, but never in its entirety.

I spent part of last night sitting in the parking lot where the old school building had been. The gym is gone now, smoothed over and paved, while the new school stands not too far away. Dark, silent… just watching as I sat there thinking about the past ten years… going over in my head the “what if’s” and the “whys.”

There were no answers, no easing of the pain that I feel whenever I let myself think about that night. There was only silence just like that night ten years ago. The world hushed by sadness, blanketed by the falling snow that covered the bouquet of flowers I left behind.

No comments: