Me and dad - 1961
Everything still is so clear in my head; I would swear that it all happened just a few days ago.
I had spoken to my father on the phone a few times that day. He had been working on a family recipe book, something that held immense passion for him. The book contained not only recipes from our homeland (Cuba), but stories and photographs of many generations past.
Being the creative one, I had been given the task of designing the layout, pages, and cover for the book. I had finally completed these tasks and was going to his home to show him the final proofs. He lived only a mile away. When we talked on the phone, he had complained of pains. Advil did not help. So I told him I would bring along some pain meds I had at home.
Before I did that, I had to pick up my 12 yr. old daughter from her church group. When I got to the church, she told me that she was hungry, so we went to a drive-thru to get her something to eat.
For some reason, the drive thru seemed to take an incredibly long time. I had a feeling of urgency, that I needed to get to my dad’s ASAP.
When we finally arrived, I saw that he had left the kitchen door unlocked for us- this was his normal routine.
But as soon as I walked into the kitchen, I knew something was wrong. I called out his name, and he did not answer. I told my daughter to wait in the kitchen and quickly made my way through the house.
I found him collapsed in the bathroom.
He was still breathing, but it was very labored. His eyes were closed. He was on his back. I quickly called 911 - had my daughter sit on the front porch to wait for them.
And then I froze. I sat by the phone, waiting for paramedics to arrive, trying desperately to recall my sister’s phone number. But I couldn’t remember. I was afraid to go back into the bathroom. My father was the most wonderful person I had ever known. Life without him - it was unfathomable.
After what seemed an eternity, I finally saw the red, flashing lights of the paramedics through the window. I directed them to the bathroom where he still laid.
The first paramedic came back to me and asked “How long ago did he stop breathing?”. He then started CPR on my dad. They continued CPR all the way to the hospital, but never revived him. He died of congestive heart failure.
To this day, I blame myself for his death. See, I’m a teacher. By law, I have to take CPR courses every couple years. If I had gone back into the bathroom, and started CPR on my own, he might still be with us. But fear paralyzed me. And that paralysis allowed him to die. Which is the thing I feared more than anything.
I miss him terribly. I feel as if I let him down.
Some days are better. Some are worse. But just thinking of him always brings the tears - always.
And it’s been six years.