I heard my alarm ring, and I woke up in the bottom bed of the bunk bed. I brushed aside the blankets that were wedged into the bottom of my older sister’s bed like curtains. I changed, brushed my teeth, took off my night contact lenses. I read a book while eating breakfast, even though my parents discourage that, brushed my long, dark brown hair as fast as I could, since I was going to be late, which probably could have been avoided if I didn’t read in the first place. It was black originally, but I swim, so it got chlorinated. Even though my hair was still a little messy, I quickly walked to school with my dad, talking to him a mile a minute, wondering excitedly what I would be learning today.
“Bye, Dad!” I yelled, after giving him a hug and kiss on the cheek good-bye as I entered into my school, Lincoln Elementary.
The day passed by uneventfully. Math, Recess, English, Lunch, Science, History. The bell rang. The day ended, in a blink of an eye.
I chatted with my friend, Elaina, about some street names in our city on the way home. We talked about how there was an August Way, September Drive, October Drive, November Drive, and possibly being a December Drive. Afterwards, I said bye to her as I turned the corner to my house. On the way to my house, I heard the train whistle that was near my house. I smiled, since I usually don’t hear it. When I do I was, I’m usually at school, so I rarely got to see the actual train. I watched as the rail gates went down with red lights flashing, as the train came rushing by. After that, I kept walking home. But as soon as I got to my neighborhood, I saw bright, neon yellow caution tape lining the front of it. There were also a couple of people waiting outside of it, probably waiting to get into their house and can’t because it’s blocked. I was wondering if I was going to be one of them.
A female police officer approached me outside the caution tape. I watched her coming over, wondering why she’s walking towards me. I couldn’t think of a reason why she would be cautiously. “Hi,” I said nervously.
She asked me my name, I gave it to her. She then asked me, “So you don’t have a middle name, do you?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“So you do have a middle name?” she asked, confused.
“No, I meant yes, I don’t have a middle name, So basically, I don’t have a middle name” I explained, blushing a bit for making this so complicated.
“Oh, got it.” She lead me underneath the caution tape, leaving me to wonder what had happened, and why I was allowed underneath the caution tape. I gave some of the people waiting outside a sympathetic look. Hopefully, the issue would be resolved soon.
We walked to where I saw my mom and older sister sitting on the steps of a house, crying. I was confused. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
My sister replied, “Daddy died.”
The sentence that changed my entire life was spoken. It was like a bomb that was dropped into my head, and exploded with emotion. Surprise, shock, anger, sorrow, and confusion flashed through my head and my face. “What? How could that have happened?” I said, breathlessly. Why did this happen on a seemingly normal day? Was I supposed to expect my dad to drop dead any single day I go to school?”
My sister explained to me that she came home from school, and then saw my dad on the ground. She called my mom, and my mom told her to call 911, so she did.
In my head, I was thinking, “He can’t be dead, right? It just looks like he’s dead. They can get him to the hospital and he’ll live, right? If he was dead, why would this happen on a seemingly normal day?”
Even as I thought that, I knew that was false hope. He was dead. I then wondered how we will be able to go on without him. We lost half of our income. What’s going to happen? Are we going to be able to go on vacations anymore? Will we lose our house? Is anything going to ever be the same again?
We were all hugging and sobbing together in sadness, and eventually had a blanket placed on our shoulders. Our aunt picked us up and drove to her house to stay. That night, I cried myself to sleep. “Why would this happen to us?” I asked the world, sobbing. “Why?”
I never expected this to happen to me. Why me of all people? I loved my family so much. I never got any pressure to do something that I didn’t want to. I loved school and learning. Even though I didn’t really like piano lessons that much, it was still something to do. Swimming was sometimes fun. I thought my life was perfect, and I was so happy and content with it. Why, oh why, did this have to ruin it all?
We watched as our house got renovated, since one day before this happened, our toilet pipe broke while we were away, so the bottom floor was covered entirely water. We got rid of the carpets, and my mom just decided to get the whole thing renovated. We were still living at our aunt’s and uncle’s house, along with two cousins.
We visited his body inside the casket. He was in a suit, which my sister and I used to call his “creepy suit”, since he was almost never in one. I don’t think he would have liked to be in one when he died. He looked like he was sleeping, but his skin was too cold. It had the texture of skin, but it was hard and unyielding, like a rock.
We had the funeral, where I wore my sister’s black recital dress, along with black, uncomfortable shoes with little heels. There wasn’t much that happened during the speeches and stuff. My sister and I had wrote a letter to our dad, and someone else read it for us during the ceremony. Tears were shed. There were bouquets of flowers in the shapes and colors of a basketball and baseball, because of my dad’s love for sports. Along with that, many people signed a big version of a tennis ball and a baseball bat. After the reception, there were refreshments, where we saw people that we knew, people that we didn’t. There was candy and Coke, since that was my father’s favorite things: Coke and candy, especially since it was just after Halloween.
We had a burial, where my father was cremated and the ashes put in the jar. There was already a grave dug in advance, then the jar was lowered into the earth. There were some speeches, then we took some photos. Afterward, I was driven to science camp by a family friend. I was supposed to go on the bus, but because of the burial, I was late. I had a great time there, but I covered up the fact that I just went to my dad’s burial with the great time I had.
We visit his grave every once in awhile. The anniversary of the day he died. His birthday, which we bring cake. Father’s Day, which we bring a card, even though when he was alive, we never celebrated it. My sister and I mainly only visit on those days, but my mom cleans his grave marker twice a month. I don’t know what she does there other than that, and I never asked. There’s a tree near his grave with pink-colored fruit on it, along with a bench. We always sit on the bench, shed some tears, talk to him.
My dad’s smile. His breath that constantly smelled like coffee. His love for sports. Basketball. His torn ACLs from both knees from playing basketball. Baseball. Tennis. He used to play volleyball and handball. His love for candy and Coke. His passion for puzzles. He had a special place in his heart for math. My dad’s hugs before I went to bed. When my sister and I were younger, he would carry us and go in a circle before he set us down again. Working at NASA with airplanes. His business trips. Taking me to the daycare inside the NASA campus and would read me a book whenever I asked him to before he leaves. His black hair that was graying, along with white hairs peppered into the mix. His hazel eyes that used to be dark brown but faded over time. His wrinkles on his face from smiling so much. His great impression of a seal sound. His stories about how naughty he was when he was a kid. How he met my mom. His laughs with us when we looked at his old photos when he had hair in the shape of a mushroom. His kisses. His ability to ride my sister’s bike while holding onto mine when he sometimes picked us up from school. Riding a scooter and carrying two others for my sister and I to ride. All these memories I try to cling on to, but I slowly, unwillingly let go, forgetting. I wish with all my might he was still here so I won’t have to forget so soon…
I had dreamed that he would see my future children. I wished he saw me make the 6th grade basketball team. I wonder how tall I am now compared to him. I had hoped he would see me with my braces. I wished I had one more word, one more kiss, one more hug, one more…..
Sometimes, people ask me about my dad, without realizing. I’ve learned to avoid those questions. Since I hate flat-out lying, I either be vague or answer their questions with other questions. I’d rather have them believe that I was a normal kid with both parents, so no one will treat me differently because of it. I don’t need anyone’s sympathy. I don’t need anyone’s apology. I have done well enough to get through my life without having to tell everyone about the “tragedy of my life” and have everyone feel sorry and say, “I’m sorry for your loss”. I don’t want to be treated like a delicate flower that might cry at any second just because my father died. I’m stronger than that.
He died on November 3, 2014. I was 10 years old. I’m 12 now. I stopped missing him as much, and I don’t ask the world why this happened to him. Instead, I’ve learned to accept this as part of my life, and moved on, though I still shed a few tears when I’m alone in my bedroom. But from that day forward, I was never that same innocent girl that said bye to her dad that very morning. I was changed forever.