As a dad, I have a very specific anxiety. I suspect it’s not uncommon. I worry about what will happen to my children, if I pass away before they’re adults. I know mine comes from quite a specific place.
My father passed away the month before my 21st birthday. A heart attack. He had a disability, that made him more prone towards them. He’d had circumstances in life around him that triggered the event.
I was the last person in the family to see him. I was living alone in a house in the student area of town. I’d missed his birthday earlier that week as I had had a nasty cold, and hadn’t wanted to pass it on. When he called me I was bunking off of work for an extra day, as the company I worked for then penalised more for events than days.
He’d called me, as he needed someone to speak to about some bad news. I consoled him, made him a cup of tea. I tried to help him think about ways to resolve the situation. Gave him his belated birthday present. Hugged him and told him I loved him, and sent him back out into the world.
Five minutes later, behind the wheel of his car, his heart gave out. I was told his car had turned into the curb and stopped without hitting anyone or anything. A passing nurse had tried to help resuscitate him to no avail. It was his time to go. Just like that.
I felt lucky for seeing him just before and having the moments we had, even under what were bad circumstances. I could’ve been at work. I could have missed his call. I felt guilty because nobody else in the family had that opportunity.
For months afterwards, I remembered which was ‘his’ cup he drank from that morning. It was bittersweet when it cracked and had to go in the bin.
Not a day passes by that I don’t miss him, on some level. Pain and grief diminish over time, with a half life. It’ll never reduce to nothing, and I’ve made my peace with that.
Fast forward nearly 2 decades. I live in New Zealand now. I’m half a world away from then in space and time. I have a wife, and two beautiful children that I wish he’d been able to meet. Some days, I hug them just a bit harder, and I guess all of this is the reason why.
Ka kite anō Dad. I’ll see you later.