It was a day like any other summer day. It was June 3rd. The year was 2000 It was early morning. We were just lying in bed. Talking to each other like we always did. We could her the birds chirping and the waves against the rocks. The river was our backyard. We were still in bed when the phone rang. It was the kind of ring where you can feel something. The kind where you can feel something is off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. The kind you don’t want to answer. I remember feeling different, not normal. I knew something was wrong. I felt it. Deep down in my guts. With all my being, I knew.
“It’s your dad,” mom said. “He died.” I was stunned. How could that be. I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. Not just once, but over and over. The doubled over pain, the white hot pain, the hard to describe pain. The words will never be enough pain.
They had just been at our house the night before for supper. He had just been playing with Tayler and smiling at her the night before. He had just said he was tired and wanted to go home, the night before. That was it. The last time. The last time he saw Tayler. The last time he saw us. The last time.
The next hours were a whirlwind. We got dressed. I know I put on jeans and a T-shirt. That’s what I always wore. I couldn’t get my thoughts together. I couldn’t grasp what was happening. I just knew he was gone. I just knew I wouldn’t see him again.
It felt like it took forever to get there. We lived in fort Pierre at that time. We hurriedly got in the pickup. I seriously cannot remember getting Tayler ready to go. I can’t remember if the bigs were there. I don’t know if it was our weekend. I can’t remember those little details that feel like they should have been big details.
The drive to their house was excruciating. We crossed the bridge into Pierre and each street, each block, each mile seemed like forever. They lived by the golf course. We got there after what seemed like hours and went in the house. It felt eerie and stale and odd and crazy. It felt lifeless. It felt like a dream. It felt like a movie. The kind where you are watching what is going on without feeling like you are in the moment. Because you don’t want to be in the moment, but you are.
I wanted to see him. John and I walked back to the bedroom, the last door on the right, down the hallway. He looked like he was just sleeping. He was covered with his sheet. I touched his hand. It didn’t feel cold or warm. It didn’t feel like anything, except dad. He looked the same, only different. The life was gone. The smile was gone. The father was gone. I bent down over him, gingerly, with trepidation almost. I kissed his forehead and told him goodbye.