As I flew into DFW from Seattle, holding back tears and watching some comic book movie on the tiny screen in front of me, I reflected on the week I just experienced, and the life I was given.
My mother called me that Saturday morning, telling me she tried to wake up my dad, who was cold and not breathing. She stated paramedics were on their way. Ten seconds later, they arrived and started to do what they do. I stayed on the phone with mom trying in vain to calm her while knowing the worst had happened. My father would not be alive anymore. I would know a life without him.
Kelly texted me saying she was on her way home from Kenadie's dance practice and asked what I wanted for lunch. I could only respond with the horrific news.
The paramedics confirmed what I had already knew, and a grief counselor started to talk to my mother. I hung up the phone to spread the word that my dad is no longer with us. Phone call after phone call, I talked with numerous people who were shocked and dismayed by what I had to tell them. My sister dropped everything to head up to be with my mother, and Kelly arrived home and booked a flight and car.
I arrived late that night, to my mom who was already asleep. She had a long, tough day, and I envied her ability to snooze. I stayed up for a bit with my sister and her boyfriend, who kept me updated on how mom was holding up, and I thanked them for taking the time to make the long drive north. I told Facebook what had happened, and immediately was taken aback by all the well wishes and offers of condolences. Stories were shared about him, and fond memories were had. I sat on the couch, looked around the room, and wondered how I'm going to take care of all of this.
This is what I posted:
"My father dreamed a life of adventure. In his youth he buried his head in Kipling stories and the comic book tales of Uncle Scrooge, fantasizing about a life of voyages, treasure hunting, and engaging with cultures foreign to him. People of my generation may recall the Disney comics as being the basis for the 80s cartoon "Duck Tales."
After college, he decided he wanted to live out the life he wanted, touring the world having quests in places far and exotic. He decided the honorable thing would be to stop dating my mother, and join up as a merchant marine. As he stood there about to board ship, something ate at him. He turned away from his passion, followed his heart, and never got on that boat. He came back to my mother, proposed, and made her and his family his first priority.
Years later when my parents spent a decade trying to have a child, he told my mother he was taking a day trip, and found himself in Portland, to what is now Catholic Community Services, and requested to adopt a child. He surprised my mother with the news, and a year later they called my folks announcing that they need to come pick up their son. That’s how I became a Wilson.
My dad wasn’t a saint nor a scholar, but he lived a good life, always putting his family’s needs and wants above his own. That was the father that raised and loved me.
He used to tell me that he hoped heaven was something out of a Normal Rockwell painting, a world he always wanted to see.
Today I say goodbye to the man I call Dad, who was the kind of father I’ll always aspire to be."
The next day I called an old friend to tell him, who arrived at our front door two hours later and he jumped into work mode, packing up boxes and throwing out garbage. We ran errands everywhere, taking care to make sure mom was eating and getting enough rest, and I'd come back to the house to feel as if I hardly made a dent in all the nonsense my dad had collected over the years. It got so frustrating I wanted to light the place on fire and call it done, but rational thought got the better of me. It was hard work, loading box after box of nonsense into his truck, firing it up after not having been turned over in five years, and making runs to the dump, Goodwill, etc, but it was worth it as it helped put my mom's mind at ease.
Every evening I would eat with my mom and would try to connect with her in a manner that seemed surreal. Dad was no longer there to join us, and we had to talk about her future, which would mostly end in sobs.
I don't know that I've ever been so exhausted, physically and emotionally. The outpouring of help I received from my sister, friends, and family was overwhelming and was instrumental in making the trip more bearable, but the pain of mourning my father while simultaneously taking care of my mother and his estate was almost too much. That being said, I am so grateful to all who assisted, and I don't know that I can ever repay them for the generosity they displayed.
I couldn't help but feel all kinds of guilt as I left my mother to her own devices while she was mourning her husband, but she's more capable than I give her credit for, and I have good people who are checking in on her daily. That helped make the flight back home so much easier.
I finally landed and got to see my beautiful wife and kids. Knowing they were well and love me is partially how I still manage to get through this.