February 6, 2017 at 5:15 A.M.
My phone makes a noise that my ears find strange for this time in the morning. My ears have been taught to hear my obnoxious, yet, necessary alarm to wake me up for work. My ears, however, were not trained to hear what was coming next.
I heard the silent ring getting louder and louder. My contact-less eyes fought hard to follow the faint light that came from my screen, I fumbled around until I finally grasped the phone and squinted hard enough to see “Grandma Lorrain” on my screen.
Dad. I thought it would about another seizure he had, and she more than likely needed me to coerce him into eating his glucose tablets for the 12 millionth time, because he was infamous to listening to me, and only me.
“Shelbie!” I heard in a scream, “It’s your daddy….” sobs “he isn’t waking up…” sobs “He had a seizure. He’s not responding” sobs and screams this time “They’re shocking him now…c’mon Jesse wake up WAKE UP!” All of this before I even had time to react, to say “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!?”
I knew in the exact moment, this time was different. I jumped out of bed and straight to the bathroom, I’m convinced that my feet never even hit the floor. Tawny, sweet Tawny, and her calming spirit didn’t even get scared because she knew I felt that enough for both of us. “Shelbie, your shoes…Shelbie, baby, we’ve gotta go. What’s happening? It’s going to be okay…Shelbie your contacts, put them in.”
As she’s saying all of this, I’m roaming around aimlessly, my only thought was to call my brother. My brother would be asleep. My brother would be contact-less. My brother would be fumbling around for his phone until he finally grabbed it and he would squint to see my name “Shelbie” on his phone. I calmed myself as much as I could because even though my brother is a grown man now with two babies and a wife of his own, in that moment he was still my sweet hearted, chubby little brother who I needed to protect if only for a moment. “Nelson, it’s dad. He’s had a seizure, I think…and he’s with the EMTs but he’s not waking up. Get ready and go up there, I’ll call you when I hear anything else.” Silence…until Nelson spoke finally “okay, be careful I’m leaving now.”
On the way to the hospital which not-so-conveniently was over an hour away, I prayed. I sobbed in fear for my precious dad, and I prayed harder than I ever thought possible. “Father, please, please heal my dad. Please, I’ll do anything. Take me. Take me in this moment. I’ll give up sweets if that’s necessary! I’ll tithe every month. I’ll go to whatever lengths I need to. Just please” I was praying to my Father, about my father, and both seemed to not be listening.
Tawny sped. She didn’t stop for red lights. She didn’t stop to even think. She just sped. She got us there in 35 minutes hoping that I could see my dad. Hoping that he would listen to me tell him to “WAKE UP!!!!!!!!” because everyone knew he listened to me, and only me. That went back to before I can even remember. But we weren’t there in time. We weren’t there to say goodbye. We weren’t there. He wasn’t there either, just his body, but he, he was long gone.
“Are you the family of Jesse Welk?” the doctor asked. “Let us finish taking the tubes out of him and he’ll be ready to view.” To view? TO VIEW? Is that what this was now? A fucking wax museum and someone put my dad in there to be VIEWED? My brother finally walked through the door, and the distraught look on his face was overwhelming. He grabbed my hand as he, Tawny, and I walked through the door of my dad’s room. The next hour is a complete blur of bullshit, tears, and absolute anguish.
When I saw my dad lying there in his pajama pants and his black tshirt, it’s like he was sleeping but I knew he wasn’t. My brother squeezed my hand and then our arms both went limp as we apparently both fell on the hospital beds to our sides. I don’t remember doing that, but Tawny said I did. He was right there. Lying on a cold bed, his soft hair as still as his heartbeat. I saw his tattoo on his right forearm and I touched the back of my neck, where the same tattoo resides on me. A father daughter celtic knot that can’t be untied. Yet here we are, and I felt like it had been untied and used as a rope to strangle me. I felt like a part of me died there too. I couldn’t take my fingers out of his hair, the softness comforted me somehow.
I don’t have an ending to this story, because none of this has ended. None of this has stopped hurting. None of this has turned to an emotion other that pain, and sadness, and absolute heartache. When I know how this ends. When I know how to stop missing the man who made me a strong person, when I know how to stop missing the ONLY one who accepted me for me, I will write this ending. Until then, it’s all left in the balance, just like my dad’s life was for 34 minutes.