Ed. note: I originally wrote and published this 10 years ago in 2012. It’s now been 13 years and it still seems like just yesterday.
Four years ago tonight, at 8:30 PM Pacific Time, I was sitting on my couch playing Assassin’s Creed II. My twins were nearly 6 months old, and they were laying on the floor in front of the couch playing with some stuffed animals. Tiffany was at work. It was cold and rainy outside. My phone rang. The caller ID on my iPhone showed it was my brother, so I answered the way I usually do when he calls:
“Hey! What’s up, man?”
After what seemed like an incredibly long time, he tried to say something but no words came out, just some mumbling followed by sobbing. His wife grabbed the phone from him just as I was asking what the hell was going on. I can still hear the conversation in my head as clearly as I did on that rainy night three years ago:
“I’m so sorry, Jim. Your dad died.”
“WHAT?! No no no no no. What the fuck happened?”
“We don’t know. Your mom came from Christmas shopping and found him on the floor in their living room.”
“Oh fuck. FUCK!” click
I hung up and immediately called my mom to a) make sure she was ok, and b) find out what was actually going on. After calling for the 4th or 5th time (by this point it was nearly 1 AM on the east coast), she finally answered. She was numb, but keeping it together. The police and coroner and ambulance were there, so she said she’d have to call me back.
After the longest hour and a half ever, my phone finally rang. It was her.
“What the hell is going on, mom?”
Then came four words I’ll never forget hearing, even though I already knew what had happened. Maybe it was because it was my mom saying them, or maybe it was because it was confirmation of what I didn’t want to hear. Truthfully, it was probably a combination of both of those things.
“Oh honey, dad died.”
I immediately went numb. Before my brain decided to stop allowing me to form complete sentences, I managed to ask again what had happened.
Earlier that day, she went Christmas shopping with my brother, his wife, and their two kids. My dad had considered going along, but decided not to since he promised my grandmother he would come over and bring her some things she needed. He never made it over there.
After getting more details and piecing things together with my mom over the next few days, we came to the conclusion that sometime during the afternoon while he was out in the garage, he realized he wasn’t feeling well–there was a half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray in the garage and 3/4 full bottle of Pepsi sitting next to it–and went in the house to lie down on the couch.
As he was sitting there untying his shoes, he had a massive heart attack and fell to the floor where my mom found him–with one shoe untied–around 8 hours later.
I think the thing that still bothers me the most is that earlier in the day I had called their house. I hadn’t talked to my dad for a couple of weeks (last time was on Thanksgiving) and figured he would be home since he retired a few months earlier.
When there was no answer, I assumed he was out in the garage tinkering with something and didn’t hear the phone. I tried a few more times and figured he was just busy. Never did I imagine that he was lying on the floor dead, four feet away from the ringing phone.
He was only 64 years old.
If I could change one thing about that day–or any other day over the years since then–it’d be that I would have had the chance to say goodbye.
Rest in peace, old man. I love you and I miss you.