Sunday, September 16, 2007

night call

The phone rang at 12:03 AM.

As a reward for cleaning the apartment spotless and getting my packing done I was sitting on the couch, watching Medium and taking my first bite of a dark chocolate bar. As soon as I saw her number, I knew something had happened.

I was leaving the next morning. Lauren and I had coordinated our trips home for the holidays this year. Originally she was thinking to come home for Yom Kippur but when I told her I already had my flight for Rosh Hashana booked she changed her plans. It was going to be like old times, we'd laughed.

But it wasn't going to be anything like old times.

"Rachel, my Daddy's dead!", she sobbed through the phone.

No, this isn't happening, I said to myself.

"My Daddy's dead! Rachel! He's dead. Oh, G-D, not my Daddy", she wailed.

Lauren is my oldest friend; my fourth grade 'bff'. It was only a few weeks ago that I went to Western New York for the weekend to meet her.

Lauren has many friends, but I am the one who pretty much grew up in that house. I am the friend who saw it first hand. Who knows how very much her father was her world and she, the apple of his eye.

When she got her period, it was her father she told first.

"He went right to the drugstore and bought me tampons", she told me proudly. I tried to imagine how it would be to have a father like that.

Or the time when Lauren woke up in the middle of the night with the stomach flu in university. It was her father she called.

"Daddy, I'm sick!", we could hear her on the phone in the next room.

Lauren's father was the kind of man you thought would go on forever. I see him cruising the stretch of sidewalk outside his office, buying homeless guys a coffee and a sandwich. If you were in the area you were sure to see him. He'd always have a sly grin and a joke.

"Did you hear the one about the rabbi and the priest..."

He was a fixture in the synagogue for as long as I have memories. He practically ran the place, walking the aisles, flashing Lauren and I dirty looks when we talked too much, which was pretty much always, or making us lead the congregation in Aleynu. Lauren's uncle told us he loved Jewish tradition so much that as a small child he would roll up a towel and pretend it was a Torah. Lauren's dad was 64.

So that was my vacation. It was heartbreaking. Now, one week later, here I am, back on my couch. I'm tired. I'm scared of the people I love dying. I'm scared of dying. I had to take an ativan to fly for the first time in a long time. It wasn't the flight so much as the fear that when I said goodbye to my family before going through security, it could be the last time. These moments make you forget how to live with that possibility.

What if my father dies and I have shut him out all of these years. How will I live with that? What if my mother dies? There are days when we barely tolerate each other even though I love her more than anything. How would I survive?

Lauren asked me over and over how she would ever feel ok again. For the first few days I wasn't so sure she would, but in her strong moments she has already begun to find meaning. I guess that is how it happens.

And here I am, home, on the couch, eating the chocolate I had been eating that night when the phone rang.

The chocolate I thought I would never want to taste again.

7 comments:

Hilary said...

I am so sorry for your friend. What a horrible way to start the new year. I can't imagine...

Lx said...

the thing is, it's not "what if" our loved ones (or we) die.
it's when.
coming to terms with finality or mortality--or our understanding of it as we know it relating to time, is extremely difficult.
in the distant past i struggled with this issue immensely--but i started early. i was the kid who went to schopenhauer and kierkegaard and sartre and camus when my friends were out at parties or proms.
i think the only virtue (if it can be called that) to be found in passing my teenage years reading philosophy, is contentment with and acceptance of death and finality of life.

Laura said...

It's terrible to lose any parent but for a girl to lose her daddy...

My thoughts are with you and your friend.

XO

Rachel said...

I know. Heartbreaking.

Lx, that's what I find most compelling about you. Somehow, at some level, you seem to have come to terms with all things inconceivable. I wish you could transmit that to me. I know I wouldn't be so stuck if I could let some of that go.

Jeans Pants said...

You are such a good writer. That was very well written. Im so sorry about this. My grandfather was basically my father. He died 10 years ago this October. He was the glue that held my family together.

I know where you and your friend are coming from. When times like these happen it's hard to tell what to say because it's always hard to tell what wants to be heard. Just wanted to let you know that If you need anything ( from someone who is a few thousand miles away) then Im here for ya =0)

Take care to both you and your friend.

Rachel said...

Thanks JP. And thanks for the kind thoughts all.

Lx said...

R, death is not inconceivable.
it's natural.
all cycles are.
i wish i could "transmit" that to you too.
but i cannot.