*Please take a few minutes to read through, explains where I have been and the lack of posts the last few weeks*
My son turned 12 earlier this summer and he hadn’t had a “friend” party for a couple of years. To parents, friend parties are a lot of work and annoying as hell as you have 6-12 boys running around at high speed and volume. But this year, we felt we owed it to him to have one. We set up a party at a local establishment that is retro arcade during the day, and retro arcade/hipster bar at night. We figured that the boys would be quieter and more involved in the games and we were right. The party was a hit.
On the morning of the party, I ran out to a local Sam’s Club to get 24 cupcakes for the party. When I was a kid we always had a homemade cake in an old cake pan, but times have changed and you have to do what Johnny(or insert another child’s name here) did. I made the trek out to Sam’s at about 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. About 20 minutes each way. It was warm and muggy, but a bright sun shining morning.
On the way home, my phone rang at 10:50 with a phone number that I didn’t recognize but was from a local city. Now, I also help run our youth rec basketball league and we had a camp starting the next morning. I figured the phone call was from a parent with a last minute request or question, but it wasn’t. It was from my step-sister that I never talk to and only see once every couple of years.
“We have a problem out here…something happened.”
Me- “Okay, what’s up.”
“Your dad shot himself this morning.” “They were arguing and his medicine has been off and he has been acting different and getting agitated easily…anyways, they were arguing and he said that she never has his back and she should. She went to the bathroom and when she came out he had his gun in his hand and shot himself. She didn’t have time to say anything.”
M – “Is he dead?”
Suddenly and unexpectedly my whole life changed.
I am turning 47 soon and have always wondered how I would handle my parent’s death. I figured I would have a lot of time for that as they are both 67 years old. Well, he was 67. I never even contemplated, not once, that this was a remote possibility. No goodbyes, long drawn out sickness, or closure. I had to explain to my two young kids (9 and 12) that grandpa was on some medicine and it might have altered his thought process(not that I know that it did or not) and that he took his own life. Obviously, we couldn’t tell them how, but the older one is confused and has a lot of questions. And anger.
The hardest part of it all was that in approximately three hours after finding out my father shot himself, I had to have a party for my son. We couldn’t tell them that day what had happened. They didn’t deserve to have that day ruined or changed in any way. It had nothing to do with them. I had to choke back tears and try to act as normal as possible. The kids knew something was up as I was constantly going to the bathroom so they wouldn’t see me losing it. My eyes were red and they kept pushing with “what is wrong with dad?” Kept telling them that it was allergies and I kept sneezing although they never heard me sneeze once.
I made phone calls to extended family before the party (as it was a kids party, the family was not going to be there) to let them know what was going on. At the party, I only told one person. A dad I have gotten to know over the last few years and consider a friend. He was in total disbelief that this had just happened and we were there. Like I said, the party was a hit, but not like it should have been. The kids all had a blast and were none the wiser as to what was going on.
With the basketball camp starting the next day, I decided to not tell the kids until after the first day of camp. I had a responsibility to my community and I didn’t want my son to be an emotional wreck in front of his peers. But that also meant that now that we are home from the party, I still had to keep my emotions in check until the kids went to bed in a few hours. But in all actuality, my day was about to get even more difficult.
My wife is a nurse and sometimes nurses have a hard time turning off/on the mom/nurse thing. Apparently, this is common. Around 9:15 my wife comes in the bedroom and looks awfully pale. She tells me that her heart has been racing for about five minutes and she cannot get it to stop. I take her pulse and it is 135 bpm. We put her Fitbit on her wrist and in no time it measures her heart rate at 130 and it isn’t going down. I can physically see her carotid artery pulsating in her neck. After a quick phone call to a friend for medical advice, we pack up the kids, drop them off at her parent’s house and head to the ER. When we arrive at the hospital my wife’s HR is 141 and they rush her into a room and hook her up to a bunch of monitors. I use to drive an ambulance and had spent a lot of time in emergency room’s, I can tell when the staff is concerned and we weren’t quite there yet, but we were not waiting long for doctor’s to come in the room.
In a matter of hours I had lost my father and here I am sitting in an emergency room wondering if my wife is going to need some sort of emergency open heart surgery or if I was going to lose her as well.
While discussing some things with a doctor, my wife’s HR suddenly dropped to 72 and stayed steady there. A nurse that I was standing next to looked at me and said: “you just saw that right?” I did. It didn’t gradually go down, it just changed back to normal. Everyone on staff let out a huge breath and they kept her overnight for observation. They felt something was going on but they were not sure what it was. It turned out to be some sort of arrhythmia and might have been induced by the stress of the day.
I got home from the hospital at about 1 AM and had to be at camp in about 6.5 hours. I managed to sleep for a few hours probably from sheer exhaustion from the stress of the day. We made it to camp that morning and informed the rest of the staff what was going on and that if I quickly excused myself, they would know why. A few parents found out what was going on and by the end of the first day, most of the adults knew of the situation…but not my son. We picked up my daughter on the way home from camp and called my wife to let them hear that mommy was okay. Then I had the moment I had been playing in my head for 26 hours…how do I tell them and make them understand?
It wasn’t easy, but we got through it and the many weeks that followed. My wife is doing better as well.
That is why I haven’t posted much recently. I haven’t felt creative…just, kinda numb. If you have parents or kids that you don’t speak to much, I implore you to make it right before you can’t.
The picture above is of my dad and I taken about 15 years ago.