I am home in North Carolina while the bulk of my family and relatives are gathered in Flemington, a small town in New Jersey, which is known as the home of Flemington Furs and as a center for outlet shopping. They are there for the wedding of my cousin, Frank, and his bride-to-be, Shea.
Being that I was, at the time, approximately six-hundred miles to the south, I was sorry that my wife and I could not attend. Since we are a very close family, Frank and his fiancé understood.
The wedding had been announced some time ago and, generally, everyone was happy for the couple. Frank, the middle of three brothers and the son of my mother's sister, Mary, is near twenty-eight years old. His chosen partner is a few years younger. The two have been together for several years and this next phase of their relationship was somewhat expected.
My sister and her husband had found a babysitter for their newborn baby boy, Zakary, and had caught a ride with my parents from their apartment, just across the Hudson River from New York City. My mother had picked out a beautiful new dress specifically for this occasion and my father was all decked out in his favorite suit.
The phone rings. My wife and I are just cleaning up our breakfast. I pick up the receiver.
The voice is my sister's. She fills me in on all the new family gossip and how nice the wedding was and the goings-on at the reception. She says they had a lot of fun and everybody looked good. Many of the attendees had asked how I was doing and also about my wife. She said that my mother looked beautiful in her new dress and that everyone had come over to talk to my father, who had suffered a major heart attack just six months earlier (two weeks before Christmas), to tell him that he was looking great. This being the first big family gathering since then, all the attention must have done him wonders...
Once the conversation with
my sister was finished I
decided to call my parents.
My mother handed the phone to my dad and we talked for about fifteen minutes, the conversation dwelling on several subjects; politics, world events, the books we were both reading, how our jobs were going, and the ins and outs of his physical therapy/rehab program. He and my mother were both going to relax for most of the day, he said, and a movie had been rented from a local video store to help pass the time. I told him that my wife and I had several chores to do and that later we would be going shopping so we said goodbye and I hung up the phone.
The phone rings. I am watching the Arsenio Hall Show in the living room, my wife had gone to bed several hours earlier. I rush to the phone and pick it up after only one ring, not wanting to wake up my sleeping wife.
It is my sister's voice on the other end. By her somber tone I realize immediately that something is wrong. Something's happened, she says, literally whispering into the phone. The paramedics are at my parent's apartment and are working on my dad. She has no idea what's gone wrong but, after receiving a frantic call from my mother, she and her husband had hurried over from their apartment several blocks away. That was over an hour ago and the paramedics had been there when she arrived.
Suddenly, there is a commotion of sound over the line and my sister says that the paramedics are ready to take my father to the hospital now and they will all have to go. Abruptly, the line goes dead. As I place the receiver back into the cradle, I am left standing in my kitchen, in the dark, almost six-hundred miles away, very worried and not knowing what to expect out of this. The one thing I keep on thinking about is the fact that the paramedics had already spent over an hour working to save my father, which indicated to me that there was still enough life left in him to be considered worth saving. It was the only thing I had, at that moment, to hold on to.
The phone rings. I am not
actually sleeping but have
been lying in bed and am
Hello, she says...
Give it to me! I urge her and she waves me off, still not knowing all that has transpired because I had left her sleeping after my sister's call of some hours earlier.
In the darkness, I can hear my wife's confused answer---Yes, he's right here, and she hands me the phone. My heart is racing as I grab the receiver and raise it to my ear. Yeah? I say it as a question and immediately I hear my sister's voice in reply:
These few simple words say so much---I feel as if I have been hit by a truck, the impact sends me reeling.
WHAT!!! I exclaim and my
sister, with tears evident
in her voice, explains that
my dad had been taken to
Saint Mary's Hospital in
Hoboken, the next town over,
where the doctor's proceeded
to work on saving his life
for quite some time but...to
The life of Edward P. Madison ended...just like that...case closed...no second chances...
All of a sudden, after thirty-one years of marriage my mother had lost her husband and was once again a single woman, my baby nephew had lost a grandfather and my sister and I had lost our father. The shock and the grief which overwhelmed me at this point would take quite some time to quell itself.
My sister then filled me in on the specifics and told me that my mother was too emotionally stressed and drained to talk to anybody on the phone. At this time, there wasn't anything left to say to each other---she sensed this also and we broke the connection.
In less than one week's time, my wife and I would have made the trip up and we would have all been together. I would have been able to see him alive one last time, to talk to him face-to-face. But we were robbed of this, the simple pleasure of spending time together, a father and his son. The next time I saw him it would be in the cold and sad environment of a funeral home.
Even now, several years later, I can still feel the void inside me. It has been there ever since the day my father died. There was something left unsaid between us---that one last exchange which would have meant so much. We did not even share a goodbye...
...Well, it may be a little late, but...
previously published at the Writer's Hood, 2001