I have so many words right now. So many thoughts. So many emotions. So much all at once. If I don’t write, I may implode. My middle school years were my absolute worst. I know most people disliked middle school, but I had a whole other set of reasons. My family experienced multiple tragic events over the course of several years, but this one was on November 3rd, 1992, the day Bill Clinton became president.
My Great Aunt Lee was like my grandmother. She was this absolutely incredible woman. She was a business woman in NYC before women were respected in the workplace. She never married, never had children. She was very petite, wore a size 5 shoe, and dressed to the nines for even the most ordinary outings. She taught me some of life’s most important lessons, like how to purchase a cantaloupe at the grocery store and how everyday is a reason to look your best (my messy mom-do, tank tops, and running shorts may not be indicative of this on a daily basis, but the lesson is not forgotten).
Lee lived in a condominium maybe 15 minutes from where I grew up. It was primarily a retirement community, so they had buses that took residents to different places. On November 3rd, 1992, Lee awoke to get on the community bus to vote for Bill Clinton. My mom called her several times during the day, which was typical because my mom was her caretaker. But she didn’t answer the phone. Early evening, she still didn’t answer the phone. We got in the car and drove to her place. We knocked, nobody answered…
my dad became my hero.
I was only 12 years old, but I remember this like it was 12 minutes ago. My dad revved back and kicked in her door. Part of the frame came off with it. We ran inside her house, didn’t see her in the living room, but found her in her bedroom. She was on the ground, on her back. We didn’t know how long she had been there, but her mouth was filled with vomit. We didn’t know if she was alive. My dad asked me to grab a wet washcloth, and he cleaned off her mouth. He then began administering CPR. She was alive. We called 911. Because it was a multi-story building, the EMTs didn’t know where to go. I ran by myself downstairs, ran to meet them, and led them back upstairs. My great Aunt Lee was always an amazing role model, but in that very my moment…
my dad became my hero.
When faced with an emergency situation, he didn’t hesitate. He acted. And he knew exactly what to do. My 12-year old self didn’t know he knew so much! Lee ended up dying in the hospital just a few days later, either a day before or after my 13th birthday.
My 37th birthday is approaching, another election with another Clinton is approaching, and my dad is now dying. 24 years later. Today, I accept that he feels ready to go. He’s being moved to hospice. It’s horribly sad, and I keep thinking of all that I’ll miss – like showing him my most recent photos, cooking up his favorite recipes with peanut butter and chocolate or cinnamon and apples, going down to the Keys together – but more importantly, I hope he goes knowing just how loved he is. And just how grateful I am to have had almost almost 37 years with him. And how glad I am that he was my child’s Papa. I promised him tonight that I’d keep his memory alive forever. Because tonight, when I went to visit him at the facility where he’s staying, I walked into his room and found him on the floor. Just like we found Lee on the floor that night on November 3rd, 1992. And I watched my dad become my hero. He passed the torch to me tonight. I bent down to make sure he was conscious, and he was, and then I ran as fast as my body would take me in flip-flops to get him help. I don’t really believe in signs or in anything of a spiritual nature, but reliving that night with Lee, who I loved so dearly, with my father tonight… It let me know that it’s going to be okay to say goodbye.
I know you won’t read this, Dad, but I hope you feel it. In our words, in our actions, in your memories. You are loved forever.
These photos were taken Mother’s Day and Father’s Day of this year.