I hesitate to tell this story, to share with the world the last conversation I ever had with my father. I have told some people, but to really put it out to the world? I think I am afraid if I tell the world, the world will hold me accountable to what he said. You see the last words my father spoke to me were an assignment, of course. My dad was the first to read and edit things I wrote. I still wish I could have given him my dissertation for him to read and critique as he inevitably would have. So its only fitting he left me with an assignment on his fucking death bed.
I walked into the hospital room, my dad on the bed, plugged into machines, with a facial expression I had never seen before. Fear. He asked for my son, who was not allowed in the ICU, and I assured my dad he was with my husband. But I never saw my dad scared like that before. He was fucking super man. He was invincible. Why would he be scared? His fear scared me. I was still in denial about the whole thing. Like, no, this is temporary, soon this will all be over and we will get back to normal. We all just have to be strong enough to get through this and we will all be fine. My dad is tough, he just won a soccer tournament like 2 weeks ago! He’s got this! I was so used to my dad being funny and silly and trying to make the best of all situations. I tried to lighten the mood, something he would normally do. I tried to make a joke and be funny like he would do, and he didn’t laugh. I said, “Dad, I’m trying to be funny.” He acknowledged my efforts, but I knew they were in vain.
My mom was pulled away to discuss paperwork, and my dad and I had a moment. He was preoccupied with making sure everything would be covered by insurance. Ever the provider and protector, on his deathbed asking me to make sure the paperwork is in order and that everything is covered. I tried to convince him not to worry about that right now. But he was adamant. With a stern look on his face he almost made me promise I would look into the matter. So I reassured him I would. The next words he spoke to me would be the last he and I would share. He looked me in the eye and said, “If anything happens, write the book.” I instantly knew these sounded like last words, these sounded like something a dying man would say. In my heart, I knew what he was asking. But from a place of denial I said, “Dad, stop,” with the inflection in my voice like he was being ridiculous, like there is no need for last words when this will all be over soon enough and we will go back to our normal life. I think he saw the fear in my eyes, and quickly changed his tone. He laughed and said, “I’m just kidding,” with the inflection like he was now trying to be funny. I smiled at his efforts, but my heart knew the truth.
I noted the words in my heart, “If anything happens, write the book.” I told myself over and over, those sound like last words, like his last request, and still I did not let myself think that way. Ten days later, two days before Thanksgiving, in a hospital in Hollywood, my father left this earth. I was four months pregnant and thus felt like I could not fall apart, I had to take care of myself despite the deep pain I felt. Sometimes I think it was probably for the best, who knows what unhealthy things I might have done if I was not living for someone else. It was not until the moment Santos was born that I truly began my grief journey. Which is it’s own story. A story I will tell to fulfill my father’s assignment. To heed his last request. Something did happen, and so now I must write the book.