I had an appointment every Sunday morning for well over a decade that I seldom missed. I kept this appointment in airports, car rides, hotels, and outdoors, but I usually was at home. As the clock displayed 9:59, I would make myself comfortable and dial a Kansas phone number with my father’s words about curfew when I was a teenager reverberating through my head, “When I say 10 o’clock, I don’t mean 10:01. That’s not good enough!” As soon as the clock struck 10, I would connect the call and hear my father’s booming voice on the other end. Our Sunday telephone calls would last up to two hours as we discussed everything under the sun from gas prices to family life to health issues to Shark Tank, one of his favorite television shows. We never failed to tell one another that we loved each other before we completed the call.
My father was a good and brilliant man, but he was not easy to please. One of his favorite sayings was, “Be reasonable. Do it my way!” and one of his favorite books was “Winning through Intimidation.” He was emotional and passionate bout many things, such as real estate lending, his dog, saving money, and his family. I was the youngest of his two daughters, and by the time I was born, my parents’ marriage was already disintegrating. My mother and sister were extremely close, so Dad would often spend extra time with me. We bonded over reading the newspaper and taking tandem bike rides. He moved out when I was 6 years old and remarried when I was 7. Over the course of the next 10 years, he moved to three different states. I would spend summers and every other Christmas with him. I came to live with him and my stepmom, Marsha, for my last three years of high school. I really got to know him better during those years. By the time I graduated, Dad had already moved from Ohio to Arkansas and he and Marsha were divorcing, so I came back to California.
We never lived closer than 2000 miles apart for the next 27 years. We would visit him, and he would visit us, and we always had our Sunday morning chats. It was the perfect way to stay connected and current with him. In March of 2004, he called during the week, which was quite abnormal. The news he shared was urgent and devastating. He’d just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood plasma. Over the next 11 years, he fought the cancer hard with chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and frequent discussions with his doctor. His final year was very hard on both of us. He fell many times and needed to be placed in skilled nursing care as his body weakened. My phone calls became more frequent. My husband and I flew out to visit him in February of 2015. He still believed than someday, he would be released from skilled nursing care back to his own home and resume living independently. By the end of our visit, he came to the sad realization that he would never drive or live on his own again. He chose to receive hospice care shortly after we returned to California. I called him almost every day after that just to check up on him and hear his voice. The last time I called, his voice was so weak that I could barely understand him.
Two years ago today, as I was driving across town on a busy day, I received a phone call from a hospice nurse. My heart sank as she asked me to pull my car into the nearest parking lot. I asked her in a whisper as I was pulling my Camry into a Starbucks, “Is he dead?” and she confirmed my suspicions. She reassured me that his passing was a peaceful one, and he was now free of the pain that had plagued him for over a decade. I never thought that day would come, and when it did, I felt lost.
Two years later, I still feel lost. Being an orphan sucks, to be gut level honest! I wish I could have one more phone call or visit with Dad to let him know that I love him and miss him. My world will never be the same, especially on Sundays at 10….