NS July 17th, 2010
I thought I was watching my father die tonight.
It happened right before my eyes, live on webcam, but I was 4060 miles (6533 kilometres) away.
He was okay in the end, thank goodness. But as I sat, my children either side of me, eyes wide and mouths open, watching my mother spring from her seat and shake his lifeless form while shouting his name, that distance may as well have been from moon to sun to Earth and back again.
“What’s wrong with Boppy?” my daughter asked.
Keeping my voice calm and controlled, even though I wanted to scream ‘Daddy! Are you okay, Dad?’ was tricky.
“He’s just not feeling well, sweetheart. Nana will call back when everything is okay. Don’t worry.”
“Okay!” Off she skipped to watch fish swim in the sea. On TV, of course.
Even after that reassuring phone call — he’s okay, just passed out from this cough he can’t shake, we’ll go to the doctor on Monday — I felt odd; numbed.
I opened a bottle of chianti and poured a generous tipple, tapping my fingernails restlessly against the cheap glass. I called my sister, she’d know what to do (she always does). She promised to be the bull dog after my dad to go to the doctor. With his stubbornness, someone has to be. I realised as we talked that she always will be, by default. As the only child who lives in the same area, (let alone continent) as our parents, she will inevitably deal with more of these things than I do.
I feel crappy about that. Have I run away from reality over here? Some day it will come to bite me in the ass. Today, it nipped me.
My husband started talking to me. I argued with him, distracted from my thoughts and not caring much for what I perceived to be his shallow concerns. Who the fuck cares when we’re going to get the birthday card for our godson’s birthday party tomorrow?! For 20 seconds today I thought I was watching my father [What, die? No, that's not it. Well, a little bit. Something scary, at least]…I don’t want to talk about it.
I was not there because of you. I am here, 4060 miles away, because of you. My heart sings but it also aches because of you.
I love you always but I hate you a little sometimes. Not you but your birthright, your geography, your far-awayness. Your castles and your rain and your parents down the road and how well they know our children and how interwoven our lives are with theirs.
I am jealous. Jealous that your parents have us over for lunch without a second thought, drop by without a second thought. I am insanely jealous that you know that if your dad ever keels over in front of you that you can race straight over, be at the door and in his arms in 30 minutes flat.
Me; I stare at a screen with a silent scream in my throat, trying to figure out how to dial 911 from a country that dials 999.
Fuck. How can I be jealous of reality?
And then I had to go and drink most of the rest of that bottle of chianti and watch a really great, sad, lovely, uplifting film, the kind that makes me want to both stare at a wall doing nothing and fulfil my dreams. Then I listened to really great, sad, lovely, uplifting music, the kind that makes my fingers ache to strum a guitar, pound piano keys or fly over a flute, just to make something that is beautiful and makes me feel lighter than air for just a few moments.
So now here I sit, contemplating my father’s mortality with music pumping into my headphones and a tear steadily streaking down my cheek but I’m still smiling because I know that no matter how sad and horrible and lonely and heartbreaking this feels, others have it so much worse and don’t even have the family to fret about or call on the phone. I have live babies and an unbroken family still stitched together at the seams. I have a healthy body that can run for hours (or wants to) and a mind that is riddled with privilege.
I should be so happy and so thankful. I am.
But right now all I can think about is flying those 4060 miles to wrap my arms around my father. I’d not sleep the whole flight and would keep my eyelids open to every turbulent wind, every cloud cluster, every blazing sunrise and every achingly sad sunset that befell me, drinking in every detail of the freedom of flying.
Hang on, Dad. I’ll fly home some day.