This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.
This was not happening again. I’d already dealt with my father’s death once. I remember being a little kid, my aunt trying to make me understand that my dad was dead. I just didn’t get it. I kept asking if he’d be back in time for the fair that summer, or for dinner that night, or for my first day of school. She had to keep telling me over and over that dead meant gone forever, not an hour or a day or a year but for always. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I remember when I was older though and I finally did get it. I remember realizing he’d never be there for my ball games or my graduations or my wedding. I remember grieving the loss of a man I never knew. It felt kind of phony. How can you be sad about the death of someone you never knew?
I remember really grieving after my first son was born. Here I was a brand new father and I had no idea what I was doing. How was I going to be a dad when I had no idea what a dad was? I spent those first two years watching every parent-child interaction I saw with a stealthy intensity I wasn’t aware I had. I saw relationships I was envious of: had my dad been like that with me before he died? I saw relationships I was afraid of: had my daddy yelled at me like that before he died? I tried to forget all the bad stuff I heard and saw and focus only on the good stuff.
Then somewhere along the line my good buddy, Ted told me the best damn advice I have ever heard about parenting: “Be the parent you wish you had.” Well, hell, I could do that. And I did. Until that marriage went to hell and then I had to move in order to keep a job I needed and saw less and less of my kid. Bout tore me up. I never thought I’d be the type to give up my kid, but by the time I was able to fight for him he didn’t much want to be fought for and that was that.
The point is, my damn daddy had never been around that I could remember, and certainly not ever when I wanted or needed him, but now here he was fresh out the grave and at my local hospital? He had some kinda nerve asking for me.
“I’m here,” I finally said.
“Oh. Good. Thought I’d lost you. As I said, you’ll need to come in so we can discuss how to proceed.”
“I’m sorry doctor Voss but I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to proceed with the man you have in your hospital. You might just as well,” and here I was interrupted by my call waiting. Damn these phones and their features! I would have ignored it, too, except I saw it was my wife. Since I could count on one hand the number of times she had actually picked up a phone and called me and every one of them had been an emergency, I knew I needed to answer it. “You’ll have to hold on there a minute, Voss. I got an emergency call on the other line,” and I switched over.
“Glory, what’s wrong?” I asked.
“Hello, sir, you’re the emergency contact in a cell phone we’ve just found at the scene of an accident. We just want you to know we’re taking the victims to Clark County Hospital and should arrive in the next ten minutes.”
“Accident? Is everyone okay? My wife? My boys?”
“I can’t tell you anything more, sir. I’m only authorized to look for and call an emergency contact. You’ll need to speak with the hospital to learn more. You’ll want to ask for Doctor Voss’ unit.”
The line went dead and I heard the phone beep at me about switching back to the other line. The other line! Voss!
“Listen here, Voss, that was someone sayin’ they’re bringing my family to your hospital and I need to speak to you about it. What’s going on? Is my wife okay? My boys? What happened?”
There was no answer.
“Voss!” I shouted.
Silence. And then my phone did that boop boop boop noise it does meaning I’d lost the call.
~~~That’s an hour~~~