Eight years ago today I had just dropped off Chase with my ex. Drove through Dunkin Donuts and went to Barnes and Nobles to wait for them to open. It was a beautiful pre-Autumn day and I’d decided to hang out in one of the store’s big comfy chairs before going next door to the office supply store where I was working at the time. I didn’t have to be at work until noon so I had tons of time to relax and prepare myself for the day.
The time passed quickly though and I got my stuff together and at 11:30am headed out onto the sidewalk to go to work. My coworker came out of our store and said, “There you are…we saw your car but didn’t know where you were…you need…” I interrupted him…”Sorry…did you need me to start early?” He had an odd expression on his face. “No…Christina you need to call home.”
Okay..weird, but okay. I got into the building, put my stuff away and called my mother’s apartment. I was staying with her at the time with the kids, trying to get my feet back under me after my breakup from my ex. No answer. Hmmmm. Tried calling my sister’s house. No answer. Mom’s cell phone. No answer. I walked up to the front desk and dialed my father’s apartment. No answer but I left a message. “Hi…work just told me to call home but I can’t get ahold of Mom…can you call me back?”. As I hung up the phone, I looked up at another coworker, Eric, who was watching me intently. He quickly looked away and I started to get cold and hot. What was I missing here?
I went back to the Copy Center and decided to call my grandfather’s number. He lived in the same building as my father so I figured that if something was going on, he might have talked to my mother, or my mother might even be there.
“Hi Bumpa! I just got to work and they said I needed to call home but I can’t get ahold of Mom or Cindy…have you talked to them?”
“Chrissy? Have you heard about Curt (my father)?”
“No…Bumpa, what’s going on??” (In hindsight, I should NOT have asked him that question)
“He passed away this morning…”
“Oh my God…What??? I’m on my way.” I dropped the receiver back down on the hook and realized that Carlos was standing next to me. He pulled me up into a hug and said, “Come on Christina..we’re going up front.” Then he used his walkie-talkie and said, “Linda and Maria, Christina knows. Can you meet us up front?”.
Someone grabbed my purse and keys and brought them to me in the manager’s office. Things get hazy after this point but Linda, one of the supervisors, drove me to my father’s apartment building.
As we drove into the complex, I saw a police car parked in one of the spaces. Then I saw my sister’s car. I wanted to tell Linda to turn around…to not leave me there…but instead, she got out of the car, gave me a hug and told me not to worry about work…to just keep them posted on anything that I needed.
She drove away and I walked to my grandfather’s apartment. They must have seen me coming from the window because the door opened before I had a chance to knock. My sister was standing there, clearly had been crying. My mother, Maddie and my nephew were all in the room talking to Bumpa.
They told me that it was a heart attack. A massive heart attack that had killed him. After a few minutes, my mother asked me if I wanted to go see him. My entire body wanted to scream…”NO!”. Instead, I nodded my head. There was a police officer standing outside his apartment…he tipped his head at us when we walked up to him. He opened the door and I saw him, sitting up in his rocking chair. There was another cop in the room and he moved off to another area so we could have some privacy.
He was clearly gone. And had been gone for several hours. I had never seen a dead body…well, let me clarify that. I’d never seen a dead body that wasn’t in an open casket. For weeks afterwards, I’d see him sitting there..the grayness..the mottled skin…the death.
Today is difficult. I’m torn. He was abusive. He was short tempered. He was a man whose moods could flip at the drop of a hat. But he was the only father I knew growing up and while I’m incredibly angry at him for what he did and for how he was…it’s difficult. I cannot forgive yet…but I still grieve.