Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. To read previous chapters, scroll down. Love all the love you are giving me with your comments, follows and likes. Thank you! XO M
The phone rang. I remember being in the kitchen. The connecting room to my right, the breakfast nook is where one of the three phones in our house was located at the time. My dad had been reading the paper. He hopped up from the table away from his paper to answer the phone.
I remember feeling something change in the room. I didn’t hear one word from my dad after he said “Hello? Yes…” It is not often that we recognize such a definitive moment in our lives as it is happening. I knew then, I felt it, the split-second joy had been sucked out of our house. It was as if a portal into deep space had been thrown open in our kitchen and the entire existence of our family was scattered beyond to the ends of the universe by the vacuum of nothingness, to oblivion.
My seven-year-old eavesdropping antenna was all the way up along with something else I had never before experienced, true fear. I paid close attention with my peripheral vision so as not to look directly at him. I had never overheard a phone call quite as silent as this one or felt the room so heavy with something I could not identify, something unnatural. He hung up the phone. I tried to search his face for clues of something in that half-second, whatever this unnatural thing was, only to discern that his gorgeous bright blue eyes had lost their beautiful energy. He hurriedly left the room in one quick turn. His sunny disposition, his entire being, everything about him had been washed over a dark gray.
Minutes later both he and my mom rushed out the back door into the garage. Wait, what about dinner? Where are you going? I wondered but remained silent, taking it all in. I didn’t understand where they were going or what was happening. I just knew something bad ushered or followed my parents out the door in a rush. Whatever it was I was very afraid of it.
It was rare that both of our parents were not home for dinner. I do not recall a parentless dinner prior to this day, but neither of our parents was present at dinner this night and many nights to come. I remember eating in frightful silence with my sister Anne, she was 12 at the time.
I know they would have given anything including their lives to have been at the table with all of us like normal that night. I know they would have traded places with Dave rather than face the fire of the worst news of their existence in the Emergency Room at San Bernardino Community Hospital. But we don’t always have the option of choosing our fate.
My parents were met at the hospital by a neurologist who explained in a flat tone, “Thomas (Dave’s actual first name) has experienced severe trauma to his spinal cord.” The neurologist slapped an x-ray up on a lightbox in front of my parents, people with no medical background getting their first of many accelerated med-school by force lectures. My dad took one look at the film and dropped to his knees with a stunned overwhelm that anyone could imagine looking at the horrifically obvious misaligned vertebrae of your child. My mom stood fast facing that fire. Her immediate reaction was to catch my dad from falling to the ground completely, along with the doctors and help him up. The doctor coldly asked if they understood what the x-ray was depicting. My dad clarified, “Yes, my son’s neck is broken.”
My parents began a frightening and heartbreaking path that afternoon that I watched my dad turn from a vibrant glowing soul to a shell of dark gray presence, our house was shrouded, an unspeakably broken home, a broken-hearted home.