It doesn’t feel real yet. It’s been two days. It still feels like he’s here. It was surreal when Mom called. I’m at home with some cable guy in my home when my cell rings. In a weird way, I knew what the call was before I picked up. Mom never calls me in the middle of the afternoon, ever. It was a quick phone call, she managed to tell me between pain racked sobs that Pops was gone. Like that, his long cancer battle was over. The man who was my Dad for thirty of my thirty six years was gone.
I hang up the cell. I’m numb. I’m in blank shock. I have a complete stranger in my home finishing up work on my cable internet and I just found out my Dad died. The cable guy finishes up his work. I make some lame joke about having a beer after his shift, he earned it today, and see him out the door.
I head to seven year old Little Mitch’s school. I knock on his classroom door, the teacher knows why I’m there without saying a word. Little Mitch doesn’t know why, he’s just happy to get out of math class. He asks me why he gets to go home early. I say I’ll tell him when we get home. We’re home, both of us on the couch. I tell him I have sad news. I tell my son that his Papa has died. His little face just goes blank, some tears but not many, and then I hold him for a few quiet minutes, when he asks if he can play some video games. I say yes, and he plays. He’s quiet, very quiet. Little Mitch is never quiet, he’s overwhelmed trying to process enormous feelings he can’t comprehend.
The last two days have been a blur. Hours fly by and seem to stand still. My head hurts from crying and from trying not to cry. I’m not hungry and I can’t stop eating. I feel like I can sleep and I can’t sleep. I wan’t to be alone and I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to talk about it and all I want is to talk about it. I don’t want to be touched and all I want to do is cuddle Little Mitch.
Little Mitch is hurting. His little seven year old heart is in so much pain it makes me feel helpless as my child grieves. He goes silent and I can hear his quiet sobs and he reaches for me with open arms, his little body shaking from the tears. He says he misses Papa. I tell him I miss him too. We were both quietly watching cartoons when he says with the emotional weight of a child whose in a depth of pain he can’t comprehend “It will be different without Papa”, I asked him if he’d like to talk about it. No he says and the conversation is abruptly over by his choice. I’m sorry my son, there is nothing I can say that will make the hurt go away, just know that I am hurting too and am with you every step of this journey.
I slept terribly the night after I got the news. I’d sleep and wake up. Cry, sleep, cry, sleep, cry sleep. I’m not sure if it was a dream, or a fervent wish, or if it was real or a little bit of all three but I felt you there Pops. I honestly felt you there, you were there. I got out of bed. Went downstairs and you were sitting there. Sitting on the couch, your hair lush dark brown again, not the sickly wispy cancerous grey it was those last months. You were sitting with your arms crossed, and your leg up on your knee as you always sit. Wearing faded jeans like you always do, and a light tan brown sweater. You smiled at me as I came down the stairs, waiting for me, to say goodbye.
It felt so real, it couldn’t be a dream, Pops was there I felt it. I wake up in the middle of this, not rested, my head hurting as much as my heart, if not more. There’s a faint glimmer of hope that this is real and I head downstairs and look to the empty couch illuminated by the bleak winter morning light. The realization hits me with so much weight I feel a tinge of physical pain in my heart. My Dad is gone.
I’ll miss you every day Pops.