It started off like any other Sunday. There was no CCD that day, so I didn't have to take my oldest out and about. I woke up around 7am or so and was the first one up (which is usually the case on the weekends). My youngest got up right after me.
I continued with my morning routine...checking email, watching the news, puttering around on social media.
Then I got the call from my brother. He was heading over to Dad's house because he was in rough shape. He was weak. Couldn't get out of bed. Nothing.
Dad had gallbladder surgery a week or so later and spent a couple days in and out of the hospital as a result. During the previous 10 years, he battled kidney and liver issues so his health situation was an up and down ride.
February 26, 2012 was just another day of Dad dealing with health issues that I assumed we'd get through. Everything would be ok.
So after I got off the phone with my brother, I knew that I had to head up to the hospital. I started to get ready. Everyone in the house was up at that point. I remember sighing a lot, breathing heavy and just being very worried about Dad.
My wife asked me if I was ok and I remember telling her that I just didn't feel right. That today was a lot different than the slew of other times we've dealt with Dad's health issues.
I started to get ready to leave the house. I remember being in the shower and thinking what I would say at Dad's funeral if he passed. I started crying. I don't know why I was thinking like such thoughts at that very moment, but I was. I was scared. For the first time in a long time, this situation felt real. It felt different. I just couldn't put my finger on it.
During the 30 minute drive to Lahey Clinic in Burlington, I drove silently. No music. No sports talk radio. I prayed. I prayed that Dad would get out of the hospital. I prayed that things would be ok and that we'd be hanging out with him the next weekend as we often did. He'd be playing with the kids and having a great time. I just prayed.
I get to the hospital and my brother, step-mom and her cousin are there in the ER with dad. He's in bad shape, but in typical Dad fashion he says, "What's up G?"
Dad was always trying to be cool with his boys, which he was.
We were in the ER for hours. All along, I'm texting my wife and my step-sisters about Dad's progress. The doctors were giving Dad a slew of tests and updating us as things were happening.
Basically, his kidneys were in rough shape and he had some poison in him from the gallbladder issue. The doctors were on the case and trying to get Dad back to a safe and healthy level to treat him. We wanted to get him better and get him home.
Eventually, they moved dad up to the ICU. That wasn't a good thing. At that point, Dad was hallucinating and saying random things that we couldn't understand. We just kept telling him to rest up.
After more tests and doctor visits, we finally get word that his kidneys are failing. The game plan was to give Dad dialysis and basically charge up his kidneys (I guess kidneys are like car batteries and you can bring them back to life with a good dose of healthy blood).
Things were looking up. Dad's color in his face was back. He was talking normal. All looked good.
I remember texting updates to my wife and telling her that Dad was stabilized and that I'd be heading home short. I'd pick up McDonald's for the kids on the way home (and probably something for us too).
At that point, Dad said he had to use the bathroom. We all filed out of the room. I was the last one. I touched him on his leg and said, "Ok G. Luv ya. We'll be right outside the room."
My brother, step-mom and I were waiting in the common area of the ICU.
A minute went by. Two minutes. Three minutes. Four minutes. Five minutes.
Suddenly, lights started flashing, doctors and nurses were rushing into the room.
Code blue, they said.
Someone ushered us into a waiting room. In the waiting room were other people. We didn't know what was going on. We felt uncomfortable in that room with other people so we went into the hallway. I called my wife. I was in panic mode. She couldn't understand me. I was crying. I couldn't believe what was happening.
Finally, a hospital administrator brought us into a private room. She was assuring us that they were doing everything the could do to help Dad.
Then the doctor came in. She said that they were still working on him. I asked them what "working on him" meant. She said, CPR and that they were trying to find a pulse.
We were all crying. Upset. Confused. Just really not sure what to do. We felt helpless.
A couple minutes go by and the doctor comes back in and gives us the same update. She said, "Now is the time to pray."
I said, "What do you mean by that? He was just fine 10 minutes ago. That's what you told us. You said he was still in a bad place, but he was getting better."
She said, "I know, and we're doing our best to get your Dad back."
My heart dropped. I knew something was terribly wrong. I was in shock. I couldn't believe that this was happening.
A few more minutes go back and the doctors comes back in the room. She asks us if we want to be with Dad as they continue to work on him.
We said yes. The usher us to the common area in the ICU, just outside the double bay doors to room number seven, where Dad was. I heard someone say, "We have to call it." At that moment, my world instantly changed. I hugged my brother and step-mother and we were all crying hysterically. There were a slew of doctors and nurses standing around. The hospital called up a handful of security guards that were all staring at us like were going to flip out (believe me when I say I wanted to).
After the room cleared out, we went in. I couldn't believe it. It wasn't true. He was just sleeping. This was just a bad nightmare.
Then my brother and I had the hard part of calling people.
I called my wife first. She was texting me all the while and I hadn't had an update to her in a while because of everything that was happening.
I called her. She answered, said "Hello." I chocked back the words, "Hey....he's gone." My wife frantically screamed, "What?!" I said again, "He's gone." I started crying uncontrollably. I couldn't hold any of it back. I felt weak. I felt helpless.
I had to call my Uncle, who was best friends with my Dad. That was hard. I had to call my grandmother, my Dad's mom. That was awful. I had to call one of my step-sisters. That was brutal. I called other people. It was tough to do.
My Dad's cousin, my mother and some other folks ended up coming to the hospital. It was a tough scene. Lots of tears. Lots of hugs. Lots of shaking heads.
A couple hours later, the priest and hospital folks got us out of the room and into the waiting room. We all sat there and talked. Hugged. Cried. We didn't know what to do. We couldn't believe that this was happened. That it happend. That Dad was gone.
The hours and days after that were a blur. I remember driving home, crying all the way. Screaming. Yelling.
I remember getting home and the house being filled with a bunch of people. People that loved me and cared for me. I remember falling into my wife's arms and crying more than I've ever cried in my life.
I remember getting upstairs and seeing my kids. That was hard. Having them asking me about "Pa Nono" and if he was ok. They wanted to come to the hospital that day. I'm glad I kept them home.
I remember hugging everyone that was at my house that night. I remember grabbing a bottle of scotch and sucking back a big glass full with no ice.
I remember standing in the kitchen, shaking my head, feeling strange.
The days after that were a blur. We spent a lot of time at Dad's house, with my step-mom and family.
There was the wake, which seemed like it was never ending. A steady stream of people came in the funeral home that night. It went on for hours. Lots of hugs, tears and funny stories about Dad. It was truly awesome to see how many people loved my Dad.
I remember the funeral. I remember the funeral director asking if we wanted to play a song before we said our final goodbye.
We chose The Beatles, "In My Life."
I remember that song playing and everyone singing it as it played.
That was nice.
I remember being in a small group that consisted my my step-mom, step-sisters, brother, step-sister and my wife who were standing around Dad's casket, saying out final goodbyes.
We didn't want to leave. We wanted to see his face. He was still sleeping. He couldn't be gone.
I gave the eulogy; the hardest thing I've ever done. My brother was up there with me, for support and boy, I did I need him. His hand on my shoulder as I broke down. He got me through it. He was there immediately for a hug when I was finished. I needed that too.
Then we buried Dad. We said our goodbyes.
We went to the hall. We had loads of food and drink. We brought Dad's Ovation guitar and put it on a stand, in the corner, with a Bud and a shot of Gold Shlagger.
My Uncle, Dad's cousins and friends played their guitars. The only thing that was missing was the lead guitar and vocals.
That was Dad.
They played on and on. I cried.
At that very moment, as I said alone behind the guys playing guitar, the void Dad left in all our lives was very evident.
It was overwhelming. It felt like a big black hole that never ended, but was final. Very final.
Since that few days, I've come to grips with Dad being gone. It hasn't gotten easier, nor harder. It's just different.
The void is still there. I miss him more and more every day.
Dad was 56 and two months later, a group of us stood around his grave and sang happy birthday to Dad on what would have been his 57th year on Earth.
I guess God had different plans.
Guess he needed a lead singer.
Love you Dad. Miss you.