It’s been almost a year since my dad died.
In the weeks leading up to his death, I’d been unable to sleep. My dad had been in hospice care for months, in the living room of my parents’ house in New Jersey. The first time I went there and saw the tubes and the hospital bed, in the same massive room that hosted all of our family gatherings, I’d thought, This is where he’s going to die.
The thing is, I never really believed my dad would die.
Not more than a week by his side after he began palliative care, I went back to the city, back to work. I threw myself into anything, everything that distracted me. But I still couldn’t sleep. Every time my phone rang, my heart sank, expecting the worst.
The day before he died, my mom called. “Are you coming home this weekend? We think he’s getting weaker.” My mom was so dramatic; he’d been the same for weeks. I had to go, I told her, but I’d be home in a few days. I didn’t ask to talk to my dad.
That night, I slept hard. Harder than I’d slept in years. I slept through every noise that had roused me the nights before. I slept through more than a dozen missed calls from my mom, my brother, my sister.
At 6am, I woke up, yawned, and checked the time. My phone rang in my hand—it was my then-boyfriend. I picked up.
“Jen, call your mom.”
I hung up wordlessly, refusing to know what I already knew.
I’d never actually known what a human wail sounded like until my mom picked up the phone. I nodded, nodded as though she could hear me, and hung up. No plans were made.
My dad’s dead. My dad’s dead. My dad’s dead.
I felt nothing. This was four years in the making, I thought, I guess I’m prepared.
I curled up in a ball on my bed, unable to move. My memory tells me that my brother’s boyfriend—the rock of our family—came into my apartment, my room, and swept me up, put me in the car, and drove me back home.
It was only recently that I realized what actually happened:
He texted me and told me he’d pick me up at Newark Penn Station. I showered, I packed a bag, I emailed my co-workers to tell them I’d be out. I took a cab to the PATH train, I took the PATH train—for the first time—to Newark. I found my brother’s boyfriend’s station wagon amidst a line of cars outside. We listened to the radio on the drive back home, where my dad had been gone for hours and everyone was waiting for me to arrive, to get one last look before two men in suits would take his body to the funeral home.
I still have no memory of this.