That morning, I thought you were gone. I thought that I’d never live through the 20th of September without thinking, the day my dad died.
When mom called me, at 3 am, I thought for sure, this was the end. I called Darren sobbing, and drove myself to the hospital, crying and breathing hysteric breaths the whole way and I thought you were gone.
When I pulled up in the parking lot and my phone rang, I thought you were gone, mom told me to hurry, that the doctors were waiting for me to say goodbye and when I got to you, I thought you were gone because your eyes didn’t light up when I walked into the room, they didn’t even open and you didn’t squeeze my hand when I squeezed yours and I thought you were gone, I thought I had lost you.
I sat in the chair beside you and rocked myself back and forth, with closed eyes and tear stained cheeks and I thought about the first day in our house; I thought about you opening my car door and me running outside with the dog’s leash in hand, and an excited yellow lab racing with his five-year-old best friend. When the door opened I was so excited, I dropped the leash and it scuffed the brand new hardwood floors, and you thought it gave them character.
I remember those yellow walls we painted that summer I thought I was in love. I close my eyes and picture me staying up too late and you carrying me up the stairs and tucking me into bed, half asleep and half awake, with a kiss on the forehead.
As your brothers and mine came in and out, I thought we were saying goodbye.
I tearfully told Darren that I hoped if you were gone you’d send me signs so I knew you were still with me, maybe a cute dog on a bad day, and as we got on the elevator to make our way to you, a dog passed me in the lobby and I asked Darren if it was you.
I thought you were gone because on the way home from the hospital to walk our dog; all your favorite songs came on. I listened to the song that reminded you of your dad and I listened to songs we sang on car rides just me and you, and I pretended to be strong because you would want me to, but my heart was breaking thinking you were gone.
I close my eyes and I remember the early days of the diagnosis. I remember sitting in the hallway with the dog while you would brush your teeth, I would help you to bed, and I would tuck you in, kissing you on the forehead.
There was that night that me and you and mom and Darren went out for dinner, and we laughed and shared plates, and you and mom had a couple of drinks, and when I drove you home, you both sat in the back seat and we listened to Bennie and the Jets and sang and laughed and you said that we’d get one more root beer before you couldn’t eat, or drink, or talk anymore, but we never did.
Amongst all the hurt in my heart, when I came back, you still seemed like you were gone, but when I asked, and begged and pleaded for you to hear me, you squeezed my hand.
“Squeeze my hand if you can hear me…”
“Squeeze my hand if you know I love you…”
And then I started crying and I apologized for yelling at you on my 24th birthday, and I told you how selfish I was to want to keep you and how I just thought we had one more Christmas, because it’s our favorite, and I told you that it was okay, because I love you enough to lose you, but I made you promise that you’d still be around somehow, that you’d make sure I got a good cup of coffee on a bad day, that the breeze would blow and I would just know that you weren’t gone, and all I could wish for was that one last root beer.
I cry myself to sleep; I watch a video of you on repeat; you’re younger and healthier and laugh as you try to balance an orange on the dog’s head. We’ve all had breakfast together and are sitting around the table laughing; and never once then did we think that it would end.