When you spend most of your life living far away from family, phone calls carry a different weight. Like a dog that understands its owner’s root habits (better than the person themselves), when you live on another continent, or in a state several hours ahead in the time zone, you become very attuned to your family’s “calling habits”. You just sense it intuitively – don’t even need the “Caller ID” to know – oh, that’s mom calling.
So, when my phone rang in January of last year, and I got “the” call, my heart just sank, and my legs starting shaking before I even picked up the phone.
It was the worst phone call of my life. My dad had all of us on the phone, and told us he had decided to stop his kidney-dialysis treatment. This meant that he would die, possibly even in a day, or two.
Of course, it needs no explaining that what followed was also the worst flight of my life. Trying to remain calm, in a race against time, to see my dad, before he died. It was surreal, sitting in airports, checking in with my mom, people and luggage swirling around me, as my dad’s life was draining away. To make matters worse, my poor husband couldn’t do a damn thing right. He came with me, and tried to support me, but none of us knew he was functioning blindly – with a brain tumor – that had taken over his ability to be himself. Really. How fucking lame. The worst phone call, followed by the worst trip ever…Little did I know that my husband would soon be seeing the last day of his life, and I would experience the worst year of my life. (Actually, not the worst, the worstiest. I know that’s not a word, but I am officially making it one, ‘cuz it was harder than I ever could have imagined…losing my dad was the worst, losing my husband was the worstiest.)
In the meantime, before the worstiest of the worst hit, I made it home in time to see my dad. And that was one of the best moments in my life. The absolute, top-most, penultimate BEST. “Unglaublich”.
I’ll never forget the moment I saw him. His silver curly hair was out of control, it reminded me of his baby pictures, a handsome little guy with blonde pipe curls. It was as if I was seeing the “young him” and the “old him”, all at the same time. And, maybe because he had become even more thin than his usual sporty self, I also noticed the perfect shape of his nose. The exact same nose that I have. A nose that other people see plastic surgeons to get. I am not bragging – it’s not like I earned this nose, I was just lucky enough to be born with it. My dad’s nose. I’ve always loved it, and I love it even more now because I see him – in me – every time I look at my dang mug in the mirror.
So lucky was I, to have had a dad like him. So lucky was I, to be able to say good-bye. My brother and mom said that on that day, when I walked into the room, my dad lit up. That was true love. I had never been more excited to see my dad, and even though it was to say goodbye – it was one of the happiest moments in my life. I hope and believe, that even in his suffering, he felt deeply happy to see me, too.
Isn’t it incredible? The capacity we have to carry such joy and sadness all at the same time? How rich this human life is, the moments where the best and the worst come together. The bestiest and the worstiest….where true, deep, painful and beautiful life takes place.