I Remember the Thunder

I guess it was a good thing that I went to Cedar Point again yesterday. It was the sixteenth anniversary of my father's death.

Like then, it was a beautiful day. I was up early, like I was then. So the trip was a nice distraction (and a lot of fun).

But when I got back last night, I thought about how long it had been. And how it seemed like no time at all. Dad had been sick for some time, and watching him being assisted by a home health care assistant caused me to almost faint. I couldn't believe that my dad was so weak, he needed help.

I loved him so much.

One of the things I remember most about my dad is about how he smelled. It was a combination of tooth paste, hair oil, after-shave, and soap. Even when on the weekends, he was clean-shaven. The only time he wasn't shaven is when he was sick. I knew that if dad didn't shave, he was seriously ill.

I didn't talk to him much about the final diagnosis. He probably wouldn't have lived through the biopsy, but he probably had cancer spots on his liver and lung. I remember kneeling down by him one night and crying. I said that I was sorry he was sick. He said, "these things happen in life." I remember the way he said it. Slowly, like he knew there was nothing to be done. But strong. I don't remember him crying about it.

We spent time together. He took me to hockey games when I was three or four, and that continued through college, I think. We played catch in the backyard. We would go out for dinner on Fridays, so that mom didn't have to worry about cooking. After that, we'd go to the mall. I'd teach myself how to ice skate, and dad would pay bills before coming back to get me. Sometimes we'd go to breakfast, and before Indiana got the lottery, I would ride with him to Van Wert to buy lottery tickets.

He got me interested in photography and astronomy. And hockey.

He had a sense of discipline that I'm sure I inherited. For a long time, I thought I couldn't do certain things. Gradually, I've started to relax about things.

I wish, though, that I could ask him about things.

He died right in front of me. Nothing prepares you for that.

I had gotten home from work, around 2:45 a.m. I thought he wanted water and I got it from him. He wasn't responding, so I woke my mother. He was gone.

Phone calls were made, and I went to bed after a few hours. I remember my brother coming over. Someone came to take dad away. By then, it was about the time for mom to go to work. She insisted on going about her usual routine, but both my brother and I offered to drive her wherever she needed, but she refused. I was scared, because I knew she was going to get into a car accident. I knew that, like I know I'm going to die someday.

I finally went to bed. I woke up around 3 p.m. to a quiet house. I went out to the dining room table to find a note. Mom and my brother were at the car dealership, seeing how much it would cost to get the car fixed. It was totaled. Mom was okay. Just a little cut on her wrist. The accident happened within walking distance of the house.

Later on, we went out to Applebee's for dinner. I remember when we left, there was thunder, after a typically hot August day. I couldn't help think it was dad arguing with St. Peter. If it was about getting in, I hope he got in.

When I went to bed that night, I was afraid. For a long time, dad had slept in the living room to make it easier for the home health care assistant to help him out. Even though dad couldn't have protected us from an intruder, I was scared. It was the first night I knew I'd never see my dad again.

Rafael Carmelo Diaz
December 10, 1922--August 2, 2000

Dad, April 1955.

Dad and I, my brother's wedding, August 24, 1984.


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