written by Rebanut
This story is for the one person I miss more in this world...
January 29... it was a normal Wednesday. It was cold in the city, but not bitter. It didn't sting Sue's skin like she remembered the coldest of winter days when she was a child. The office was buzzing with phone calls and people chatting about a new leads for possible terror threats and major drug deals.
At 5:30, she decided to head home, it had been a long day. Lucy suggested they have something quick for dinner and they could watch some of their favorite shows they'd missed during the week. As boring as that sounded, it was comforting. She really didn't feel like doing much of anything.
Lucy put some popcorn chicken in the oven with some tater tots before Sue got home. The house smelled like her favorite diner she used to go to with her dad as a kid. Sue smiled at that thought and decided she was going to go all out, and have an ice cream float. She made a cola one for Lucy and a root beer one for herself. The two friends laughed uncontrollably when they both ended up with froth on their upper lips and tips of their noses.
The house phone rang just past 6:00, and since Lucy was closest, she answered it. It was Sue's parents.
"Hello?" Lucy said as she turned on the cordless receiver. "Mr. Thomas, how are you?!" Lucy said excitedly. She really like Sue's dad, he was sweet and funny, and treated Sue like she was the most important person in the world. Lucy liked that about him. Usually, she would just pass the phone off to Sue, but he'd started a conversation with her. Sue watched curiously, not sure who Lucy was talking to.
"Your Dad." Lucy signed. "Oh, Mr. Thomas, you know us... we always stay out of trouble." Lucy said laughing into the phone.
"Hey, Luce?" He called to her just before Lucy handed the phone off to her best friend.
"Yeah?" Lucy answered.
"Don't take any wooden nickels, ok?" He said. Lucy looked curiously toward the phone, but both started to laugh.
"Alright Mr. Thomas, I will keep an eye out for them." She joked. "Take care, it was good talking to you." Lucy said as she handed the phone off to Sue.
The two chatted for close to an hour. Lucy busied herself cleaning up the dinner mess while her roommate chatted with her Dad. Sue laughed, hard. Lucy could tell her mom wasn't home because whenever Sue's mother was home, she would take the phone after 5 minutes and Sue wouldn't be so easy going.
They talked about old memories, things from Sue's childhood, the fights she would have with her brother's, and arguments with her mother.
"You need to give your mom a break. Cut her some slack. She loves you, more than you know, and she means well. She's not trying to get on your nerves, she really isn't." He said.
"Ok, ok" Sue finally conceded.
"I love you Suzie Q" He said with a touch of sadness in his voice.
"I love you too Dad." She answered him.
"Hey, I've been meaning to ask you something... and I want to ask you before it's too late." He said.
"Too late?" She asked.
"Yeah, your mom won't be at Sara's all night you know." He said jokingly, but didn't sound convincing.
"What did you want to ask me?" She asked.
"Well, are you seeing anyone?" He asked bluntly.
"Seeing someone?" She repeated. "If you mean as if a 'boyfriend', then no." She said.
"Yes, that's exactly what i mean." he answered. "How about that Jack fellow in your office? I liked him when we met, and the last time we were together, we got along with him real well." He said with a chuckle in his voice.
"Dad!" Sue protested. "No, I'm not seeing Jack. It's against the rules." She said, trying to not let Lucy hear. It was, of course too late, Lucy was eaves dropping on the conversation.
"Well, you should give it some thought, he's a good man." He said with a laugh in his voice.
Sue laughed nervously scolding her dad once more.
"Alright, I should go, I wanted to call your brother before it's too late. I love you Sue. You take care of yourself, you hear?" He stated more than requested.
"I love you too Dad." Sue said. "Give Mom my love. I'll see you soon." She said as she reached to hang up the phone.
"Your dad is such a goof. He actually told me not to take any wooden nickels." Lucy said laughing.
The girls put on the dvr and started watching one of their shows they both loved. It wasn't long before both friends had fallen fast asleep on the couch and recliner. The phone blared, waking Lucy and Levi from their slumber on the living room furniture. Levi jumped onto Sue, telling her the phone sitting in her lap was ringing. Sue let out a scream as she picked up the phone and barely squeaked out "Hello?" She looked at the cable box to see what time it was. The box read '11:11'.
"Sue? It's your Mom. Your Dad can't breathe, I've called called 911, we're going to the hospital." She said and hung up the phone.
Sue's heart began to pound, her hands started shaking. Lucy had already shook the cobwebs out and was looking very concerned at Sue's end of the conversation.
"What's going on?" Sue stumbled over her own words, fighting to get out of the chair.
"What's wrong?" Lucy asked.
"My dad can't breathe, he's going to the hospital... " Sue said starting to panic.
"Sue, call your mom back. You know how your mom is, she makes a mountain out of a mole hill. It's probably nothing." Lucy said trying to reassure her best friend.
"Yeah.. good idea." Sue said, as she picked up the phone again, dialing her parents house. There was a long pause before someone finally picked up. "Mom? What's going on? What's wrong with dad?" She asked louder than she's planned.
"I'm coming..." Sue said as she pressed the off button. Sue began to walk in circles, not sure what to do. Lucy grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking Sue out of her dazed panic.
"Sue, what's wrong? What happened?" Lucy asked, trying to stay calm.
"My dad can't breathe, the ambulance is there, taking him to the hospital. I have to go... I have to go..." Sue said looking around for her keys and grabbing her coat.
"Sue!" Lucy called. "Where are you going?" Lucy asked.
"To my parents. If I leave now, and ignore the speed limit, i can make it in 4 hours. Maybe less, there's no traffic at this hour..." Sue said beginning to ramble.
"Honey, call the airline. You're NOT driving, at least not alone all the way to Ohio with your Dad in the hospital." Lucy said, trying to reason with her.
"Uhh... yeah, maybe you're right." Sue said, turning on her laptop. She tried to sign on a few times, but wasn't able to. "Luce? Can you help me, please? My hands are shaking too much." Sue begged.
Lucy took the laptop, pulled up a web site for plane tickets, found two seats leaving in less than an hour.
Sue had run into her room and started throwing clothes into a bag. She then ran into the bathroom and tossed in her necessities. Lucy was on the phone, making the arrangements.
Ten minutes after Lucy got off the phone, the doorbell to Sue and Lucy's apartment rang. Levi jumped on Sue to let her know someone was at their door.
Lucy opened the door to reveal Jack standing there, holding a bag. Before a word was said, Sue launched herself into Jack's arms, crying and shaking uncontrollably. He held her tight while he reached for her bag that Lucy was holding.
"Come on, we have to go now, or we'll miss our flight." Jack said.
"Our flight?" Sue repeated, looking curiously at Jack.
"You didn't think i was going to let you go alone, did you?" He asked.
"I thought Lucy was coming?" Sue asked looking in Lucy's direction.
"I'll fly out tomorrow afternoon. I'll pack better bags for all of us." She said laughing at the fact that Sue took her toothbrush and deodorant, a pair of shorts she'd put out for donation, a pair of jeans and an old ratty t-shirt she wore while cleaning.
The three of them ran down the stairs and into the car.
"Please God, no police tonight." Sue whispered.
"Or at least an understanding one." Jack added.
"Amen to that..." Lucy said. They drove faster than they should have, well above the speed limit, but barely made it.
"Oh my God! We forgot Levi!" Sue said nervously.
"We didn't have time to make arrangements for him to travel, I'll bring him with me tomorrow." Lucy reassured. They jumped out of the car, Sue gave Lucy a quick hug and the pair began to run to the gate.
"Give your dad my love." Lucy called to Sue and Jack as they disappeared into the small crowd of people just arriving from the late flight.
Once on board, Jack stowed their bags. Sue checked her Black Berry for an update, but there was nothing. Tears began to stream down Sue's cheeks. Jack wrapped his arm around her as the plane took off.
"Hang in there, we'll be there in a little over an hour." Jack said, trying to reassure her. Sue couldn't control her tears, she was scared. Jack entwined his fingers with hers, rubbing the tender skin with his thumb. Sue put her head on Jack's shoulder, and dozed off from the late hour, and the fact that she was emotionally exhausted.
An hour and 10 minutes later the tires of the jet touched down on the tarmac screeching. The jolting bump when they landed woke Sue with a start. She gasped with fright, not really remembering where she was until her eyes focused on Jack sitting in the seat next to hers.
Once they disembarked from the aircraft, Jack hailed a cab.
"Jack wouldn't it be better to rent a car?" She asked.
"Probably, but this is faster..." He said. "St. Luke's Hospital, please... fast." Jack said as he and Sue got into the back. Less than fifteen minutes later, they arrived at the emergency room doors. Jack tossed the guy $40 for a $25 ride, telling him to keep the change. The couple ran through the doors.
Once inside, Sue asked where her father was. The nurse looked at her, unable to answer the question, but guided her toward the family sitting on the other side of the waiting room. Sue's mother was sobbing into her hands when Sue finally saw them. Sue's stomach instantly turned into a knot. One of her three brother's was sitting on the side of their mother, rubbing her back. His wife and young son were sitting on the hard plastic seats along side of them. Sue walked over to her family, tears streaming, scared of the answer to the question she didn't want to ask. When her brother noticed her, he walked to her, pulling her into his arms, holding her tight. She could feel his chest start to heave from the sadness he felt. Sue couldn't control herself, and the two just stood there, holding each other.
"Billy... how's Dad?" She finally braved to ask.
"No word yet." He answered. His eyes filled once more. They had ducked around the corner so not to be seen by their mother, or his son.
"We can't do this. We need to keep positive thoughts." Sue said, trying to convince herself more than her brother.
"I saw Andrew D'Amico. He said they're working on him, but not to expect much." He whispered before he let himself cry once more. Billy and Sue had been the closest when they were kids. Both were extremely close to their Dad. Sue shook herself out of the misery, and pushed him against the closest wall.
"We can't do this Billy. We need to be strong for Mom." Sue said, wiping her face, and pushing past him to their mother. Billy followed suit.
Sue walked to her mother, and wrapped her in a tight embrace. Neither said anything, they just held each other.
Jack stayed in the back ground, watching the scene unfold before him. His attention was drawn to the little boy, who couldn't be more than 3. It was nearly 2 in the morning, but the little tike fought the sleep to hug his favorite teddy bear in one hand, and his mom's arm in the other. His mother looked exhausted. Her tender brown hair was thrown into a pony tail which was starting to fall out.
"Thomas?" a female voice called out.
"Yes!" Carla said jumping up. Jack walked to Sue's side, taking her hand in his.
"Come with me please." She said. "We're going to give you a more private area to gather in. It seems like more of your family is arriving." the nurse said.
"How's my husband? Can I see him?" Carla asked. "Please!" She pleaded.
"The doctor will be out to talk to you as soon as he can." Is there someone who could answer some questions for his file?" The nurse asked. Jack got a sinking feeling from the private room, and the nurses comments, but didn't let on to Sue or her family.
After nearly 30 minutes, the door to the room finally opened. Sue looked up, hoping to see another one of her brother's, but it was a doctor. Someone none of them knew. He was closely followed by a pastor. As soon as Jack saw the collar on the man's shirt, he knew, it wasn't good. He wrapped his arm around Sue, pulling her a bit closer.
"Mrs. Thomas?" The doctor asked looking at the older woman. Sue noticed, for the first time just how old her mother really looked.
"Yes?" She said, the freight obvious in her voice.
"I'm sorry to tell you, but Mr. Thomas didn't make it, he died." The doctor said rather uncaring.
"Oh my God!" Carla screamed, "NO!" She called out again as she dropped to her knees on the floor, sobbing.
Sue looked at the man in disbelief. She hadn't heard what he said, couldn't really read his lips through her tears, but she knew. She knew, in her heart what the outcome was. Tears began to stream down her face, she couldn't control them. Jack pulled her into his arms, holding her tight. The front of his t-shirt was getting wet, but he didn't care. He would have sworn he could feel her heart breaking in his arms.
"There is one piece of business we need to ask about. Mr. Thomas didn't have an organ donor card, would you like to donate his good organs?" The nurse asked.
"No." Billy whispered. The nurse understood. She patted him on the upper arm and walked toward the door.
"How?" Was the only word Sue could speak. The doctor looked at her mother and began to explain. Jack signed what the doctor was saying.
"Massive heart attack." Jack signed.
"I want to see him." Sue said.
"No!" Carla said.
"I need to Mom." Sue said simply.
"Come with me." The nurse said. Sue walked to the door and looked back at Jack.
"Come with me?" Sue asked. Jack got up without hesitation and walked to Sue. He took her hand in his and walked with her quietly. The nurse walked with them to her dad's body. He was in a emergency room cubical. There was a sheet over him up to his chest. He looked peaceful. Sue was hesitant as she walked to him. She hoped beyond hope that he would jump off the gurney and just scare the hell out of her as a really bad joke. She was in denial.
Sue stared down at her Dad. His hair was messy, as if he'd taken a nap and not combed it back. He had a smile on his face, she couldn't understand that. How could he be happy? How would she ever be happy again? She took his hand in his. He was still warm- like he'd been out chopping wood for the stove. She noticed blood in his hair line, just above his right ear. She noticed there was some on his shoulder, but only a drop or two.
"Why was he bleeding?" She asked softly. The nurse hesitated, not wanting to answer any questions. "Please..." Sue begged.
"He went to the bathroom while your mom was trying to call 911, and he dropped dead in the bathroom. When he did, the handle of the hot water in the bathtub went through his temple." She said, rubbing Sue's shoulder. Sue looked horrified.
"Did he suffer?" Sue asked.
"Not much, I don't think." the nurse answered. "He was gone before he hit the tub." She said, reassuring Sue a little.
"Thank you." Sue said. She leaned down and kissed her dad on the forehead. She slowly let his hand go as she began to walk away. Jack pulled her into his arms, and held her tight. She began to sob. Sue cried more than she ever thought she could. They walked back into the family room to see that her mother and brother had regained their composure. Her sister in law sat quietly in the corner of the room, she was pale. Sue had forgotten, she was nearly 5 month pregnant.
"Are you alright?" Sue asked.
"Yeah." She said, but rubbed her belly.
"No you're not." Sue said, calling the nurse who had helped her visit her dad. "Can you take a look at her, please? She's pregnant and cramping." The nurse called for an OB doctor who took a quick look at her while Sue and Jack occupied their little boy Nick.
"She's fine." Billy said as they walked back into the room. She has to try to take it easy for a little while.
"Good." Was the whisper from around the room.
"We're going back to Mom's, are you guys coming?" Billy asked.
"Yeah." Sue answered. "I need to call Lucy." Sue said.
"Do you want me to?" Jack offered.
"No, I'll do it." She said, dialing the number. The phone rang twice before Lucy answered.
"Sue?" She asked, afraid of the contents of the call.
"How's your dad?" Lucy asked.
"Umm... my dad died." She said. The words were so foreign to her, they didn't seem right.
"Wh- what?" Lucy exclaimed. Instantly tears streamed down her cheeks.
"He's gone Luce." Sue said before the tears began again. Jack took the phone and filled Lucy in on the details. He promised to call her in the morning and let her know what was going on. The phone went silent as they both hung up, trying to deal with their sadness, and Jack needed to be there for Sue.
This story is mostly true… it happened 16 years ago. I didn't have to get on a plane to see him, and I didn't have a 'Jack', but I did have a 'Lucy'- my BFF and roomie, Pat. January 30, 1997 was the worst day of my life. I lost my dad, and today, 16 years later, I am finally able to write about it. There will be another chapter… just too tired tonight to continue. Thanks for reading…