Tomorrow, my son will die.
My drive to work was like every other, uneventful. I stopped for tea as I regularly do each morning on my way into Nashville. The day would be filled with meetings, spending practically my entire day in the conference room, drawing processes on a dry erase board. There would be several “fires” of the day that would lobby for my attention and distract me from what I ought to be doing. The morning would fly by quickly, eating lunch in my office and back in the conference room for more of the same! The day was no different than any other, as matter of fact the days were all too routine.
Amidst all the things I had going on, I remembered that I had given my son a three day supply of his medications on Sunday, so I didn’t have to drive into Gallatin to see him until tomorrow evening to give him more meds. That was a relief, having to drive into town and give him meds every day was taxing, some days he wouldn’t be home or he wanted to be driven some place to pick up cigarettes or groceries, and usually at inconvenient times. Every time I left his apartment I smelled of smoke, so at least for today, I didn’t have to go see him. Whew!
Tomorrow came. Nothing different, no change in my routines, I would approach the day in like fashion, except today, I had to drive to Gallatin to give my son meds. My plan was simple, I would give him another three day supply and not have to worry about it for another few days; I wouldn’t have to go again until the weekend. I had it all figured out, a quick stop this afternoon and I was free from the needs of his care and I could continue doing what I wanted to do for another few days. These feelings were center of many conversations over the years, and now foster all too frequent remorse. He was indeed loved, but the routines become burdening.
In my eagerness of getting out of the office early, I was distracted when the phone rang. The caller abruptly told me that my son was dead, that they had found him in his apartment, unresponsive. My immediate feeling was frustration, my thoughts were ‘here we go again’, because his reckless behaviors have often ruined plans or disrupted agendas. I told myself, he better not be drunk and passed out or acting a fool. There had been times when he had drank too much, and had to be taken to the hospital and detoxed… comatose! This forced me to simply sit in the room with him and await his regaining consciousness, a process that often took many hours, well into the night and early morning hours. Such events usually left feelings of sadness, relief and anger. Nevertheless, I raced to get to his apartment, not knowing what to expect, my mind wandering… emotions teetering between worry, anger and shock. Nearing the apartment complex I saw the police, an ambulance, and a small crowd in the parking lot just outside his front door. The gathering was composed of family members, friends and neighbors. The looks on their faces caused my anger to dissipate and caused a pit in my stomach. I don’t remember having any feelings at that time, no emotion, dreamy.
Approaching an officer, as she stood at the base of his front door steps, I identified myself. The officer said that I could not yet go into the apartment, arguing that I needed to get inside and see him, still they refused me entry.
Later, entering the apartment, I climbed the few steps and pulled open the screen door, crossing the threshold of his apartment I saw a gurney sitting just inside. They had positioned him onto the gurney and covered him in a white sheet foot to shoulders. As my eyes made their way to his face, I saw his eyes were closed, he had a few abrasions on his cheek and a few days beard growth. Although his eyes were closed, he looked normal. Except this time, he would not open them again. Seemingly, within a few fleeting moments I would be back outside, they would have him covered and carried out. It would be months, years, before I realized how that dreadful day changed me. It was within those moments that my life was most impacted. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these minutes are forever in my mind and I relive them too frequently.
Since his passing, I have thought about all the good times, all the laughter and fun times together. He loved to joke, laugh, and eat! He loved his pecan pie, seafood, buttercups and time with family. So often when taking him meds, he wanted to come out and just spend the day at the house. Much of the time, once he was there, he would eat something, wander around the house or go lie in the bed and fall asleep. Just being there was enough for him, some place where people loved him, and some place where he felt safe. During the summer months he would want to come swim in the pool, sit in the swing on the pavilion for hours or go fishing with his grandfather. I must admit, his grandfather was the best thing in his life! For that, I will be forever grateful.
Poignantly, during those moments of identifying his body, that somber Wednesday afternoon about three o’clock, I never noticed whether he or his apartment smelled like an ash tray. Like I had noticed so many times before… I didn’t notice his house was in disarray or complained that he had squandered away all his money on other people, which he often did just to have their friendship. That afternoon, the thought of inconvenience never crossed my mind, I didn’t feel anything had been interrupted, and the memories of all the times he had talked back to me, cursed me, rebelled against me, ignored me, hurt me or disappointed me – never came to mind.
Unsurprisingly, I saw a three year old boy that refused to stay in bed at bedtime, a boy that forced me to get onto him repeatedly because he was so full of energy that he couldn’t sleep. I saw the boy standing at my back door in cowboy boots, shorts, a t-shirt and holding two rolls of toilet paper, standing beside the sheriff’s deputy that brought him home. I saw him riding his bike alongside his brother, hurriedly down the street, racing to get some place. I saw two boys playing army in the back yard, building a snowman, or boys vying to beat me at some computer game for the simple joy of beating dad! I see every facial expression, hear every giggle, and feel every hug. Strange how the bad moments of life pale in light of the good, and then only in light of a crisis. What are you waiting for, tell them you love them, today.
While simply writing these few lines of text, I am forced to reflect on those moments, the events of that day, and the sight of him laying on that gurney. My eyes are filled with tears, my mind clinching to memories and a heart scarred for life. It’s been
two three four five six seven eight nine ten years and I miss him every day.
Moreover, we all live life with some expectation that we’ll bury our parents, a pet or possibly our spouse, but never dream that you’ll bury your child. That explains why society has labels for these circumstances – losing parents makes you an orphan, losing a spouse makes you a widow, losing a child – simply leaves you with a big hole in your life.
Today, my eldest son is no longer frustrating my day, his demands and needs no longer disrupting my plans, the stench of smoke on his clothing no longer irritates my senses and I would give anything to have these things back in my life! If he were still alive, Tony would be thirty-eight years old – but he isn’t.