The Super Bowl used to mean getting together with friends or family, drinking beer, eating queso, and watching commercials, and probably the Patriots playing someone. About fourteen years ago, my family’s life took a detour when our lives were changed forever after a Super Bowl party at my brother’s house.
The following morning, I had just arrived at work when I received a call from my brother saying my dad had passed out at work and that I needed to meet them at the hospital. Weird. My dad was never sick. It sounded bad. I drove to OU Medical Center downtown and was taken to a private family room near the ER. I had been in this exact room recently when I visited one of my employee’s families after their grandchild had a tragic accident. The little one didn’t make it. I knew this was the “bad news room.” My dad’s doctors soon came in to meet with my family to tell us my dad had suffered an Aortic Dissection. It was very serious. He needed emergency surgery. There was a high chance he would not survive the surgery.
But he did. And for 13 years, even though he faced many challenges and illnesses, he kept going and going, just like the Energizer Bunny. He fought through kidney disease, Prostate Cancer, and more illnesses I can count. He watched his grandson Kyle grow into an 18-year-old young man and he battled through to meet his now 10-year-old grandson, Griffin.
Then, last year on Super Bowl Sunday, (I guess he decided to stick with the Super Bowl theme for life altering events) right when the game ended, my phone rang with my mom on the other end, “Jen, Dad has quit breathing.”
We had recently made the decision because of his declining health to put him on hospice care so my mom called the nurse for advice and I got in my car for the drive over. On my way over, I just kept thinking, “This is really it. The moment that has been hovering nearby for 13 years is here. I am going to walk in and he’s going to be gone.” No amount of self-talk can prepare you for that moment. He had been close to death many times but this was actually happening. The moment I had dreaded. The reason I always kept my phone near me, just in case something happened to my dad. She never called back to say it was a false alarm.
When I arrived, the paramedics were leaving, mumbling their condolences. It was real. My brother and sister-in-law had arrived. All there was to do was sit with my dad, and my family while we waited for the funeral home to arrive. So many times before when I visited, we had all sat together, chatted, but this time, my dad was present in body but he was already gone. Not knowing what else to do, we told him we loved him, hoping his spirit could hear us, feel our love and said our final goodbyes. Sorrow washed over me, because this was really the end. But also, relief because he could finally rest. No more fighting. No more pain. No more sickness.
Even when you are glad the sickness has ended, it still doesn’t make losing your dad any easier. I still think of him every day. I hear a song that reminds me of him and it makes me smile. I think about how he taught me to ride motorcycles before I could reach the ground and I’m thankful he raised me to be tough. I wear my jeans with holes in the knees and think of how he teased me about why I couldn’t afford nicer jeans. I met a former OU player last year and my first thought was that my dad would be so excited to hear about it. But I couldn’t call him. I am thankful he passed his fix-it skills on to me. When I am feisty and won’t back down, I am definitely channeling my father. I know I can’t bring him back. The best I can do is honor his memory, think of him with a smile on my lips, and be the daughter he would have been proud of.
Maybe someday, Super Bowl Sunday will just mean beer, queso, and commercials again. But not yet.