When my dad proposed to my mom, he didn’t have a ring. He took the top off a soda can and dropped to his knee and asked for her hand. She wore the pull tab from the soda can and then dad got her a ring.
On March 25, 2013 my dad died. He was alone. Mom went to work and then a prayer meeting. When she came home she found him on the floor dead. She was confused and tried to wake him. Eventually, she called 911 and they dispatched EMTs. They used a difibrulator on him. An EMT said, “he’s gone”. That’s when it hit her, sort of. This romantic dreamer of hers was gone.
She called me while the EMTs were still at the house. It was 2:30am for me on the east coast and 11:30pm her time. I was sleeping and my ringer was off. I sat up wide awake and looked at my phone. I had missed her call one minute before. When I called back she said, “Suzi, dad’s dead”. “OK” It wasn’t a shock, I mean it was and it wasn’t. When I was growing up the pastor would tell me that my dad was so fat that he would drop dead from a heart attack at any time. When I would cuddle up to my dad, I always put my head on his chest and would listen to his heartbeat. Just checking… The pastor always made me morbidly aware of my father’s mortality. I’ve always expected the call, just didn’t know that it would happen this week. This week my dad died of a heart attack, not his first.
Mom wanted his wedding ring and she was about to try to take it off. I told her not to and to hand the phone to one of the EMTs. I asked him to take off dad’s wedding ring for her when they moved “the body”. He turned from a man into a body. This man who could be my monster and my hero turned into a shell and became past tense. I got off the phone and tried to call my brother, couldn’t get through. I called his wife, she answered and then she got to my brother.
My brother got to her the next day and I got there two days later. Tonight, I was making chicken tacos for my brother. When I was a kid, I would eat my piece of chicken. Dad would look at me and ask if I was done. He would take my finished piece and clean the bone. I think a chicken leg would produce more meat just for him. I don’t know how that works exactly, but when I finish a piece of chicken I look at it and know that my dad could turn that into leftovers.
When I got to their home, mom, my brother and I were watching the sunset and having some wine. “Suzi, did you know that he left me a message, did I tell you?” “No, mom, you didn’t.”
She said. “After they took him, I noticed after a while that the room was disheveled. My nightstand drawer was open and a little box that I keep mementos in was on the floor. I found our college rings had been pulled out. I saw in the closet that two shirts were on the floor. The two shirts that he always complimented me in were pulled off their hangers. Then I saw the pull tab from the soda can that I kept all these years, my first engagement ring. In his last moments, he was loving me and figuring out how to show me. Suzi, he loved me well.”
There have been so many times where I didn’t understand their relationship. But, I never questioned that they had a beautiful love. They were married just shy of 42 years.