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April 14, 2011
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The viscous screech of the alarm invades my dream; however, the ring isn’t what wakes me up but the realization that I am dreaming. Opening my eyes, all I see is amorphous shapes and colors--that is, until I blink. Mornings are not a fan of me, maybe because I give so much attention to the night.

The pin-dropping click from 6:00 am to 6:01 am is what pushes me out of my invitingly warm bed. As the comforter comes off, the goose bumps come on and I am attacked by an abrupt shiver for the mornings are always colder than the night--perhaps out of jealousy. I instinctively slam my window shut and blow in my clammy hands like it’s really going to cure the chill. I am sleepy and unhappy; not in an angry way but in an “I wish I could have five more minutes” kind of way. Tempted, I force myself to grab a shirt. I find humor in my involuntary reach for a polo; school is usually the only reason to be up this early. It is Saturday morning and in an impulsive endeavor for fun, I agreed to meet my friend in Fullerton which requires me catching an early train.

My parents, like half of the rest of the country’s, are separated. They remain cordial as to not upset the young ones. My sister had just finished fulfilling her annual obligation to spend time with my Grandparents and was ready to be picked up. My mom had spent the night up north there and had taken my brother with her. She appointed my dad to spend the night at our house, because everybody knows that gated communities in Irvine are so incredibly dangerous for a sixteen year old. I didn’t see a point in arguing about her decision so I had uttered passively, “Fine”.
My father and I have been drifting apart for the past couple of years, perhaps due to the fact that we both know everything, yet so little. From our numerous disagreements one can see that we are truly father and son. My dad spends his nights alone, finding solace in his cigarettes and television set. It doesn’t really matter what brand or station--anything to numb the solitude. However, my expert dissection of my dad’s psyche is irrelevant because there he was in front of me reaching out, imploring me to join him on a trip to the book store to which I conceded. I would come to thank God for this.

Anyway, I finally slide into my skinny jeans, sweatshirt, and headphones. Not much can compete with the feeling prior to pressing the play button, because you have the power to drain out monotony and drown in the bass and the movement of the beats and lyrics. I move quietly, as to not wake my dad before he goes through his own morning procedure; for I know that a couple of minutes can be the difference between being lethargic and just extremely tired. I pick up my baby, the skateboard on which I have logged more mileage than most soccer moms do on minivans, yet it still glides, swift yet silent. I walk and nod my head to my Indie Rap. Taking my first step down the stairs, my headphones catch the banister and for the millionth time the notes are ripped from my skull. It’s amazing how some mistakes one can make over and over again, without learning. The D.J. is replaced by the clanging of metal not far beneath me. Immediately apprehensive, I stalk down the stairs as inconspicuously as a cheetah on her prey. The first thing I see is feet drowning in a pile of dress slacks and a belt. I take a step; I see a knee, the bright white underwear I remember so clearly from my childhood. Then, the realization hits me harder than any fist could--that is him.

I continue to walk--dumbfounded. My brain kicks into high gear, scrutinizing the situation. Coffee grinds are splattered over the blinds, counter, and floor. The stove is on high yet no pan, just sitting there on fire with nothing to heat. The toaster is toasting, the microwave is microwaving, and the coffee maker is valiantly trying to force out some sort of sludge. The fridge is wide open which I close straight away--not because it is a priority but because I feel the urge to fix the situation and it seems like a good place to start. My eyes meet my dad’s and one question just falls out of my gaping mouth, “What the (insert expletive here)?” Innocently enough, my dad answers in a slurred sputter, “I was trying to make coffee and I made a mess.” My reply would have been on the ruder side if I wasn’t enveloped in a cloud of confusion, “Pick up your pants and go sit down.” As an AK-47 does to bullets, I do to questions. Not getting the answers I want, if there are such answers in a situation like this, I tell him, “I have no idea what is happening so screw it, I’m calling an ambulance.” My dad visibly and gradually eroding changes from passive to aggressive, “Do not call an ambulance, I just made a mess, Dillon don’t call an ambulance! I just have a headache, Dillon don’t, please, don’t…”

I step outside to escape the sight of my dad’s situation worsening. He is a time bomb and I lack the expertise to diffuse him. Under the pressure, my brother-like friend and local youth minister’s words ring in my head, “Call me if you ever need anything.” I call, he answers. In a frenzied attempt, I explain the situation to which he replies, “Call 911 I’m on my over.” I take the advice and ignore that of my father’s; it wouldn’t be the first time.

As if rehearsed, they arrive simultaneously--David’s truck followed by fire engine, followed by paramedic, followed by ambulance, followed by two cops--attesting to how unsafe Irvine is. Uniforms of all color swarm at me and I tell the same story multiple times, but what I really need jogs up to me, “Hey bud let’s say a quick prayer.” Only then do I realize tears were streaming down the side of my face. Embarrassed, I wipe them and look towards my house. A stretcher rolls out, complete with my father lying half-consciously. An expression appears on my dad’s face at the sight of David: confusion, melting into understanding.

An hour later in an attempt to escape the smell of sanitizer and old people, I walk out into the ironically sunny parking lot of the hospital. A wave of regret crashes upon me as I realize that my mom is not just out of town but in the dark. I call her and make a futile attempt to explain the situation delicately. After hearing the tears roll down my face and my dad lying up in a hospital bed, she has one question, “What hospital did they take him to?” I look up and speak well I read, “Western Medical Cen—““What!? No Dillon that’s the worst hospital! How could you let them do that?” Knowing she had found her own open refrigerator, I tell her what she needs to hear and nothing more “sorry”.

My father had a stroke that day, initially minute, it worsened daily. He spent two months in the hospital and still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Keep close the ones who truly love you, anything can happen and that relationship can end in a blink. The stroke has brought our family together for it is human nature to unite under times of strife and we proved that. My mom spends every free second with him and if she feels she doesn’t have enough, she makes it.
The power of God is sometimes a hard aspect to grasp due to its abstract nature. It just so happens I checked my phone before I went to bed and agreed to meet with my friend. It just so happens the only train was very early in the morning. It just so happens my sister begged my mom to pick her up early. It just so happens my dad was with me instead of regularly alone. If one thing went differently that day my father wouldn’t be lying in a bed today, but in a grave.

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