My mother stood on the grass wearing a purple dress. There were tears in her eyes and as we hugged, I felt her body tremble. When I pulled away from her, her face was streaked with tears.
I walked into the garage as Sara comforted my mother. There sat Leslie, my childhood friend. Leslie had always been more like a sister than a friend. We met in fifth grade and were inseparable, even though we eventually went to different high schools. Leslie always regarded us as her second family; she called my parents “mom” and “dad.”
Leslie was bundled in a red and black checkered sweater. I sat next to her and hugged her while she cried. My eyes were dry, but my insides still felt completely scooped out. It all felt like a bad dream, especially since my father’s passing was so sudden.
“This is all so fucked up,” Leslie said. “Why him? Why dad?”
I shook my head. I was asking the same question myself, but I didn’t say anything. I sat and watched as more and more relatives come to my house. I looked around the garage at my father’s things: his cluttered workbench and numerous tools. Old projects of his, including a rocking chair my built for my mother. His laundry, still in the hamper, waiting to be washed.
I left Leslie sitting on the bench. I needed to be alone, so I decided to take a shower. It was quick, perfunctory. I changed into warmer clothes and went to my parent’s office. I was in college, after all, and I had to let my teacher’s know I wouldn’t be in. I emailed them all, and within minutes I got responses from most of them. I would be missing midterms in most of the classes, but the teachers were gracious enough to let me make them up. All of the teachers were understanding and offered condolences. My photography teacher even had the class get together to sign a card for me.
After the emails, I walked outside to find my sister, Mohnique, ruminating over a cigarette. Her daughter, Tahtianna, was due back at the house. She didn’t know that her grandfather passed, and Mohnique didn’t know how to break the news.
“I’ll be there with you,” I said. My then-boyfriend also volunteered to help, if only to provide moral support. Minutes later, Tahtianna’s grandparents dropped her off.
“Let’s take a walk,” Mohnique said. She hooked her arm through Tahtianna’s and we walked to the edge of the cul-de-sac. Mohnique wrapped her arms around her daughter and whispered in her ear.
I clutched my ex’s hand.
“No!” Tahtianna said. No. That one word was full of so much anguish. That’s what set me over the edge. That’s when I cried. It wasn’t knowing that I’d have to live without my father and thinking of all the things he’ll miss out on. It was knowing that there were so many other people whose life he simply wouldn’t be there for.
The rest of the day was a blur. People came in and out of the house. Someone cooked or brought food. I remember going to the grocery story with Pam, my mother’s friend, and my surrogate aunt. She walked through the store wearing all black, her small frame perched atop platform boots.
Our dog, Kalooa, sniffed around the house, searching for my father. She didn’t eat that night. She felt the loss of my father just as much as we did.
At some point I went to bed, knowing that the next day wouldn’t be easy; we were going to the funeral home to make arrangements for my father.