It's almost been two years since my step dad died. I don't talk about it with anyone still. There are times it gets brought up but find myself quite good at quickly shutting it down. Honestly I don't even like thinking about it. It's still all so fresh. The pain cuts so deeply still. The worried call from my youngest sister that Dad was missing. The door was unlocked and the pug was loose out front.
I listen to podcasts when i run in the morning and I remember listening to "Magic Lessons", I can't remember which episode. But they were talking about how you have to talk about your grief as part of your healing. It's a part of the process and it is absolutely necessary. Since I don't think I could possibly verbally talk about it with anyone actually able to understand me through my hot tears, I suppose writing about it is the next best thing.
I had a nanny with my kids and I was running my usual errands when I got the call. I dropped what I was doing to drove 40 minutes to meet my sister. I told her to check the pool, all the rooms, the closets. Walk the streets. Call the police and I would call Mom. Mom had just left that morning to fly to New York with my other sister.
I get to the house still quite optomistic and the police show up and ask so many questions. Ones that baffled me - obviously pointing to possible suicide or kidnapping...anyone wanting to harm him...it was surreal. I can't believe I was answering these questions, to a police officer. We searched for my Dad after getting information from going door to door to see if anyone had seen him. A little girl did when she was walking home from school. He was walking the dog. This was normal and confirmed what we had figured had happened. He was walking the dog...but then what? He had a form of Parkinson-ism my mom called it. Symptoms similar to Parkinson's, but not. He deteriorated quickly over the past 6 years.
It was about 3 pm and I was still breastfeeding the boys. It had been about 6 hours at this point that I had last fed the boys and I was in so much pain and leaking. I decided to make the drive home to grab the boys and bring them back with me so I could be relieved for as long as I was away from home. By the time I had come back, it was getting dark and my sister had gathered neighbors and the police had pulled together a search and rescue group. By this point my aunts and brother made it up to help search for him as well. It was warm that day, but when the sun fell it quickly dropped in temperature. I remember thinking if he was lost somewhere or confused outside, he would be so cold. My heart broke. Worry was setting in that maybe things wouldn't turn out good. The police were still optimistic so I held on to that. My good friend Kristen and her mom came out to also help search. We drove the streets slowly and I just kept saying "he has to be here, he has to be okay'. We didn't stop searching through the night. The search and rescue left around 2 am with no luck. No leads from the dogs. It was heart breaking. I understood. But nevertheless, I wanted to beg them to stay. I felt like we were banging our heads on the wall. We weren't getting anywhere and I was so confused. Could someone take him? Why? I know this world is cruel, but no. I couldn't go there.
We didn't stop looking. My mom and sister arrived that morning after taking a red eye. My youngest sister pulled together a huge search group through Facebook, hundreds of strangers came to help us look in the surrounding areas. I got calls from strangers with glimmers of hope, but it was quickly fading. Around noon, the police were able to conduct another search with the helicopter. It felt good to see so many people looking and helping us. We were bound to make progress.
I was on the photo with ABC News when my mom beeped in on the other line. I answered and I swear it was as if time completely stopped. She was trying not to lose it.
"They found him." She said. "He didn't make it."
In that moment I lost all control. Everything that I had holding it together was released. I think i threw the phone. I dropped the laptop and I even broke my mom's chair. I'm not sure how I did that. But i remember someone grabbing me on the floor and holding me as I just sobbed. How could it end this way? We tried so hard and we failed him. My mom got ahold of someone else in the house and they drove me just a block down the street to meet her and where they found his body. I couldn't. I could not believe this was happening. I wouldn't accept it. I was so angry at God. SO ANGRY. I never felt a pain like I did that day. He was gone and I failed him because I didn't find him. He was fucking one street over. For months I held deep anger and regret that I didn't think to look in the field. But I thought, why would he be in a field? It turns out, the dog got out of her harness, and what we assume had happened was she ran into the field and he followed. it's not the best terrain and he must had lost his footing and fell. The corinor said he had died in the early morning. It broke my heart once again that he had to have heard us searching for him. Calling his name. For HOURS and he couldn't do anything. I'm finding as I'm writing this that I'm still so angry. He must have felt so damn alone.
I was amazed at how quickly the person that comes to talk about the death and console the family came (who knew there was such a position?). Oddly by this point I had calmed down. In a matter of an hour. I was now feeling the pain in my hand from breaking the chair (sorry mom) and it was looking possibly broken. I was taking in all that was happening and we sat on the back porch with our immediate family and this guy that was telling us what would happen next. So surreal. What happened after that is such a blur. For weeks I had nightmares and I would cry in bed because that's the only time I had to myself. The girls were scared whenever they saw me sad, so I held it together.
Even though this was super uncomfortable and painful to relive, I feel better. I feel like a weight has been lifted and I can breathe lighter. I haven't been able to fully mourn. I didn't want to. It was scary and painful and to experience such strong emotions again that I have no control over is terrifying to me. I did go through the stages in the first 6 months or so- the normal "denial, despair, anger..." and it became less painful around the year mark with just the every day to day thinking about him. But to actually tell someone (anyone reading this) what happened is huge. I'm grateful for this space.
-Months later, I was sitting in the parking lot of the post office when my mom called. She told me that they did a test on his brain that verified his illness and determined that he died from the disease. They said he would have experienced the same ending whether it was in the chair at home or with what he endured outside. In a huge sense- it was a relief. It was a silver lining that it wasn't caused from head trauma, or dehydration or hypothermia. A small piece of light.
*I didn't proof read this, nor do I have plans to. This was for healing purposes and to clear up any questions that anyone may have had over the years, and I have so efficiently avoided. I want to thank everyone that sent meals and cards and flowers and even sweet messages that I didn't have the energy to reply to or send a proper thank you. They really made a very dark and sad time a bit brighter in knowing that others cared.