It was a Tuesday morning, the last week of high school for me. It was finals week. Ah, how nice! Done with school. I parked on the one way side street as I did each day my senior year. A group of us always parked here and talked before the bell rang for home room. I headed to home room after the bell and sat at my regular seat. My teacher, Mrs. Jones said “Ronald to go the counselors office and see Mr. Smith. Take your books with you too please.”
Off I went for the walk across our open campus. I crossed one street wondering if my transcripts were for some reason messed up. “Am I going to graduate this week?” were my thoughts. I walked into the office and the student aide said just go into Mr. Smith’s office. Now he was a very nervous acting man. I walked in and he stood up and said “I need to take you to the hospital, something happened to your father.”
“I drove to school, I can take my car” I replied. I thought nothing of it. My dad had been hospitalized many times before for various reasons, many concerning his heart.
“No, I must take you. Leave your books here and don’t worry about finals. I will take care of everything.”
That was my clue that something was not right. I graduate in less than ten days, why would he say not to worry about finals. We got into his car and headed off campus. He said nothing. My mind raced with different thoughts, but for some strange reason I knew. As we pulled up in front of the entrance to the hospital, Mr. Smith looked at me and said “everything at school will be taken care of. I am sorry.”
I stepped out the car and walked towards the entrance to the visitors lobby of the hospital. At the door was a classmates mom and nurse, Mrs. Russo. I am from a small town in Cajun country of south Louisiana where you know most everyone in your town. I have known Mrs. Russo all my life. I walk up to her and she simply says “I am sorry Ronald” and hugged me. I now see my mom sitting on the couch in the lobby with my Aunt Sydney beside her. My dad’s youngest brother is there already.
I don’t know how you are supposed to react in that moment. I know I acted differently that I thought I would. I thought about this moment often growing up. I just knew I would throw myself on the ground, beating it with my fists asking “Why?”. I remember walking by his room some days while he napped and I would stop to make sure he was breathing. I did this the Saturday that had just passed. We were mowing the lawn when he stopped and said he didn’t feel good and needed to rest. I mostly worried about him killing himself in a car accident after stopping at the bar after work, which was a regular occurrence. My reaction was nothing I had thought about. I just quietly walked to my mom and hugged her. Then my aunt. And my uncle. There were no tears shed at that moment. For me, mostly silence as other family members gathered in the lobby. My uncle took me into the hall of the hospital and talked to me about going to my house and chosing a suit for my dad. As I stood talking to him the funeral home workers were wheeling my dad’s body down the hall in the opposite direction. He then said he had to go break the news to my grandmother. I returned to the lobby and was hugged by more family members. Finally it was agreed that my mom would go to my aunt’s house and I would go to ours and chose a suit to take to the funeral home. Off I went.
I had a friend bring me from the hospital to my car, which was still parked along the side street near school. I don’t recall the conversation any longer if there even was one. I got in my car and drove the five-miles to my home in the country. I suppose it was being alone for the first time this morning that my mind started to wander. Where it settled was a surprising place and one that is so very clear even to this very day.
It was over. I didn’t have to worry about being yelled at any longer. I didn’t have to worry about what he would call my mom after a few drinks. I didn’t have to worry about him being killed in a car accident. I didn’t have to worry about his mood. I didn’t have to worry. It was like I was free. I recall feeling a physical lightness to my body. Relief.
Now that is not to say despite all he put me through I didn’t love him cause I did. That is why I worried so much I suppose. I don’t feel bad that my first real feeling was relief. It’s not hard to tell people about my feelings at that moment. I am sure it is very different from how otheres would feel upon learning of the death of their father. For me, it is what it is and I make no apologies for it.
Maybe some who will read this can relate to my feelings at that time. I am sure many people will be horrified to read how I felt. If you knew the truth, you to would have be relieved.
Till we meet again. Good day.
Mind of Shoo