Domino Effect – November 1988

Warning – this post will be very raw and may contain items that people find offensive but they will be true from my point of view and memory.

In this series of posts, I will share dominoes that touched me.  I remind you, dear reader, that the items you are about to read are true from my own point of view and may be uncomfortable for some to read. I am writing about my journey not to place blame but to help me heal and maybe help someone else struggling with a similar journey.

DOMINO November 1988:

This will probably be the hardest post to write.

When I was little, I was definitely a Daddy’s Girl. I have so many memories of him.  In my mind’s eye, he was a hard working man who just couldn’t catch a break.  He worked many different jobs as I grew up. He wasn’t a do-it-yourself handy man type so I didn’t see a lot of that growing up.

Where I had a difficult time with my relationship with mom, the opposite was true for dad.  I adored him.  Even when we were poor and had to scrap for things I always felt love and acceptance from him.  I have been told I put him on a pedestal because of how young I was. That may be true.  I do know I always felt safe when I was with him.

November 1988 would FOREVER change that.

One morning in mid-November 1988 I was called out of class to the main office at school.  I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade. I was an honor roll student so I wasn’t sure why I was being called to the office.  When I arrived, my mom was there and I could feel the tension rolling off her.  She told me that my dad had been rushed to the hospital and she was there to get me.  We then had to go to my sister’s school to get her.  I remember feeling numb.  That numbness would be a part of me for a very long time.

When we got to the hospital we found out he was in emergency bi-pass surgery.  Apparently when he got to work that morning he told co-workers he wasn’t feeling well.  They called for an ambulance and he was having a heart attack.  The EMTs stabilized him for transport but he had another attack on the ride to ER. We waited in suspense for what felt like an eternity.  That night he was finally put into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).  We were told he had gone into multiple attacks while in surgery.  It was a very tenuous situation.  We were able to see him….one person at a time.  I remember seeing him hooked up to all these machines and just being gripped by fear.

I knew the situation wasn’t good when all of his siblings, from across the country, flew in to see him over the next week.  My gut told me I wasn’t being told everything.  Of course now I know it is because I was 13 years old.  At the time though all I wanted to know was the facts and truth.  That was MY dad laying in that bed.  That was My world hooked up to all those machines.  That was MY rock looking so weak.

Dad was in CICU for about two weeks before they moved him to what I thought was a regular room.  We went to see him the day before Thanksgiving.  He was sitting up and talking and laughing. with us.  He said that he would move in temporarily with one of his sisters when he was released so he wouldn’t be alone. as he recovered.  We were talking about how we would work together to eat healthier.  When we left him that night, I told him I would come over the weekend to see him.  I told him I loved him and would see him in a day or two.  He told me he loved me too.

I absolutely hated that we would have to host Thanksgiving at my mom’s house for Ted’s family. I felt like I was betraying my dad by enjoying the food.  I am sure I was nasty to everyone around me.  I tried to let the numbness keep me quiet.  I don’t know how well I did. I do know I asked my mom the next day, Friday, if I could take the bus to the hospital to see dad.  She said no.  I asked Saturday and Sunday.  She said no.  I asked if I could go after school Monday.  She said no. She did say she would take my sister and me on Tuesday.  I relented and said “FINE!” in what I am sure was a pretty shitty teenage rage.

Monday night 11/28/1988:

I went to sleep knowing I would get to see dad the next day after school.  He was so much on my mind that I was dreaming of him.  Reader, I am a vivid dreamer and to this day recall this dream in all its color.  Here is the dream.  My dad and I were walking in a meadow.  He was talking but I couldn’t hear him or me for that matter.  It was like watching a tv show on mute.  Anyway, we were walking in this meadow and we found ourselves on a cliff.  My footing slipped and I began falling while he was left on the cliff.  Before I hit the bottom, we were back at the beginning of the meadow.  This dream repeated itself a few times.  Each time before I hit bottom, we were at the beginning of the meadow.

At some point in this cycle of dreaming, I could hear a loud chime.  I then could hear banging.  I realized I was waking up to the door bell being rung furiously and very loud pounding on the front door.  Reader, my bedroom was on the the third floor of the house and these sounds woke me.  I sat straight up and said, “O my god….he’s dead” and laid back down.  That dream did not begin again.

When my alarm went off to wake me for school, I would find the house completely lit up.  The house was usually dark when I woke.  As I came off the landing from my room, my mom was coming out of the bathroom in tears.  She embraced me and said, “Maria, your dad has died.”  My entire world disintegrated at the moment. The numbness that had begun a couple weeks earlier now completely consumed me.

I would find out years later that during the time I was having the meadow dream, my dad was going in and out of heart attacks.  He kept being resuscitated.  Finally the decision was made to let him go and not continue fighting to keep his heart going.  I believe that the dream I was having was my dad saying goodbye to me.  The part where I was falling is when he would be in arrest and the dream cycle would begin when they would bring him back.  Maybe that is odd but I still believe this to be true.  Interesting aftereffect from this dream is from that day to now, I am terrified of falling.

November 29, 1988 was date of the most catastrophic Domino in my life.  It would completely impact everything I did from that moment on.  My dad’s death still impacts me today. There are times, like now as I write this, that I will cry with the pain that hole made in my heart.  At that point I really didn’t care what happened to me. I felt life was no longer going to be worth living.  It would be eleven years before another person came into my life and heal my shattered heart.

Reminder: This is a very raw experience for me but I will continue with the next Domino soon. Again, my hope for sharing this journey is that someone will see they are not alone in their pain. My hope is they will see my healing and learn it is possible to accept yourself and even love yourself. Until the next Domino, treat yourself with kindness….you are worth it.

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