My father, Willie Ray Smith Nov 21, 1935-Oct 16, 1995
by Melissa L Smith
(Chicago, Il USA)
My father, you always know that in the natural progression of things that normally, children bury their parents. I have no illusions of immortality, never had, but I'm sorry I never equated my father with death. The things I put him through..lol. My teenage years. Staying out past curfew, laying on the phone all day and night, and just plain old putting him through the wringer. I had no idea those were the best moments of my life. Back then he was just annoying.
1994- The year before he died. My dad had started getting sick. He was the picture of health, he didn't know it but even back then, even as I was going through my teenage rebellion, he was still my hero. He played tennis, so I played tennis. He liked to ride his bike, so I rode my bike, He liked to run, so I joined the track team (almost had an major asthma attack, so that was cut short) but you get the picture. I wanted to be like him. When I was about 6 or 7, I remember I liked to watch him shave, so when he left his razor out I decided I was going to shave and shaved off my eyebrows (they never grew back quite right). My mom had bought me a polo similar to one he had, and whenever he wore his, I wore mine.
So you tell me, how does a person who would have walked through fire for this person learn to live without him? When he and my mom split up I was 11, I hated when he dated other people, why did he need a girlfriend? I would go with him to dinner/ or a movie. Why does she have to come?
So here we are 1994; kidney failure on my fathers side of the family is hereditary. His mom, uncles, aunts all suffer/suffered from some form of it. I show signs already myself. So when he started to complain of symptoms, I didn't really show any overly concern. I was 22, caught up in my own life, big time college student majoring in accounting (I hated math, my father thought that's what I should do...excel in somthing I was bad at (great idea dad!)). So when he said he was going for tests, I didn't worry too much. I visited him in the hospital, and did everything I was expected to do...(play his lottery).
I offered him a kidney...I offered. Dammit! I should have made him take it! I was standing beside him in his hospital room. He had just had the surgery where they implant the tube to start dialysis. No, he said, I want you to have kids one day (maybe that's the reason I never had kids). I told him then I didn't want kids, I didn't want him to suffer, he could have had one of mine.
1995- The year, I hate that year. My father I noticed was getting restless. He couldn't run anymore, or play tennis, bike, he even had to leave his job. All things he loved. He said my grandmother (his mom) was treating him like a invalid; she was just trying to help. But he was so independent. He didn't want her to have to help him do this or that, plus it didn't help he was her only child. October- I had moved out, living with a friend of mine. A Saturday I will never forget. I went to use a payphone to call home and asked my grandmother where was my dad. She said he was at the hospital, he had given himself an infection (you see my dad chose to do his dialysis at home and was constantly not wearing gloves, or reading the paper and touching his medical equipment without washing his hands). He didn't want to go to regular dialysis, that meant admitting he was sick. Oh, I said again. That was a pretty normal thing. They usually kept him a little while and then he came home.
So about the end of the day, I called home again and my grandmother said he was still there, we both said we wanted to go to the hospital and check and make sure everything was alright. So went and it wasn't. My father was in so much pain. The fluid that's supposed to come out wasn't, it was backing up inside of him, and the tube being infected wasn't allowing it to pass through. The hospital didn't even have the equipment that he needed to do his treatment. I had to go home to get what was needed and go back. To make matters worse, his doctor was out of town.
We stayed at the hospital late. They eventually gave him some pain meds and he fell asleep and we left. The next day Sunday my grandmother went to the hospital and I followed a few hours behind her because I wanted to go to church. We got there and he was in much better spirits, he was laughing, and smiling, we were happily ever after. He asked me to play his lottery and he said he wanted some things from home, but don't worry about it bring them the next day. Yeah, whatever! Being such a dad pleaser, I raced home, played the tickets, and got his stuff and took to the hospital. I will never forget his face, he was so happy and pleased, That's my daughter, he said.
So I listened to him and my grandmother chat, got bored with that adult chat and took a stroll around the hospital (remember dad is invincible). My boyfriend happened to call, how is he?..he's okay. The next question kinda threw me; he said ..are you preparing yourself? For what? I said ..He said never mind. I let that blow over my head and we talked of other things.
I got back to the room, my dad was in pain again. He asked the nurse to bring him something, she finally did, and later we noticed how they seemed to be shutting things off. After awhile, my dad looks at the clock and says to me, Melissa I know you and Dimitri have plans so go ahead and go home. One half of me wanted to go (my dad was going to be fine, he was just feeling a little sick right?) He told my grandmother to go home as well, it was getting late. So we left. Walking down the hall, we joked that now we were going to force him to do dialysis in the hospital to avoid this. Stop!!! I wish I could go back to that moment right there; to run back to that room and stay there.
Before we left he told me that tomorrow he wanted me to bring him back some enemas because he was feeling constipated. I said ok see you later. We drive home-Stop!! as soon as my foot hit the threshold the phone rang. I picked it up. The hospital. letting me know that my dad was now in the ICU just for precaution, because he was running a slight fever, we didn't need to come back, he was ok otherwise. I asked my grandmother what did she think. He's ok, she reasoned, she would call back to the hospital in a minute to make sure, and if we needed to come back we would do so. Everyting was okay after a while and I went home.
My world changed, little did I know. Monday morning. First things first; stop at Walgreens to pick up enemas..check, go to moms house and take her to the store..check..wait! Why isn't she answering the phone? Mom are you ready? I'm outside... She says Go home Melissa! Go home..why? What's wrong? I still have no idea...I'm angry now. I have wasted time coming to her house to take her to the store and now she has changed her mind! What a waste of time! I have to get to the hospital. Let me go and pick up grandmother and let's go to the hospital. I park in the back I will never forget this as long as I live. I knock on the back door and my cousin, whom I really call my aunt, she and my dad are so close in age, she answers the door. And says......I have some bad news for you, your dad passed last night.
My first reaction: I looked out the back door at a tree. I looked up at the highest leaf, and I heard crying. My uncle. My grandmother was in the kitchen tidying up I think.. I say c'mon we have to go to the hospital, we have to take him his stuff. She keeps shaking her head trying to explain to me he was gone. They are obviously mistaken. I leave the house intent on driving to the hospital but scared to drive there, fearing that what they are saying is true.