My cell phone rang. I was getting my youngest out of the van. I glanced at the number, as I was already running late. My older boys were at summer basketball and this was the last day where the parents came for the BBQ. I didn’t recognize the area code and number. Normally I would have ignored it but for whatever reason I picked up.
“Is this Reema Dixit?” a stranger asked on the other end of the line. This question alone caused me to pause, as I had not been called by my maiden name in a very long time.
“Yes, “ I replied hesitatingly. The words coming over the line were words that I had only previously imagined. My dad was on life support and they needed family to come and make decisions.
So many thoughts went through my head. Why was she calling me? How did she even get my cell number? Did I want to go to TN where my dad was? Was I ready for this, a moment that I played out in my mind a thousand times?
I took her information and told her I would get back to her as soon as I called the rest of the family. Why in the world did she call me?
I called my brother, Kumar (who lives in Maryland and is 5 years younger than me) and told him what was happening. I didn’t want to tell my mom over the phone in case she reacted badly. I felt it better if my brother told her in person.
I called my husband and burst into tears. I wasn’t sure how to do this. I have 6 boys that needed me, it was summer time and they were all home. My husband is an audiologist with a busy clinic that doesn’t allow for much flexibility in closing the doors on short notice. So now what?
I knew I had to go. I felt that this was something we all had to do together.
Within 24 hours, Kumar and my mom were flying to TN. My other brother rode with me as I rented a vehicle to drive the all-nighter to get there from just outside Toronto. It was a long ride. I was overcome with so many emotions. Was I ready to come face to face with my dad whom I was estranged from since the birth of my babes 10 years ago?
Nothing could have prepared me for the moment I saw my dad. My dad had hurt me in so many ways, that just the sound of his voice caused absolute terror to flow through me. I didn’t know that the sight of him, laying there, his whole body, swollen to odd proportions from the fluids and what not, tubes coming and going through all parts of him, would break my heart.
There is a fine line between love and hate. I stood on that line right there at the threshold of his room. I am not sure I can even begin to write the emotions that went through me as I looked at this man that had such a huge part in my being in this world. I felt such love that was buried so deep, under layers of protection. He is my father. I realized that I had love just from that fact… this man was my father. As much as I wish I could have erased all that love that he was so not worthy of, there it was in my heart, making its presence known.
I felt such pain, raw physical pain, at the sight of him, lying there almost not human. I was so shocked at the shell of a human he once was. I had to look into his face to see just bits of him left, that I recognized. I had to look at his hands, hands that were so familiar to me, hands that hurt me, hands that I spent a lifetime yearning to be held in. I had to look at his feet, those feet that I would always recognize as they were feet I wished that had tip toed to my room to kiss me goodnight rather than the stomping of anger that sent me running.
He had aged so much and not well. His face was so swollen. I think I found this so disturbing as he didn’t look like my dad. My dad commanded a room. He demanded the attention in a room and yet this time he just lay there.
I found myself running out of the room, tears flowing down my face, my heart just breaking. Have you ever had someone hurt you, really hurt you and turn your world upside down? Have you ever had someone that was supposed to love you and protect you turn around and hurt you more than you thought possible?
This was who my dad was. He was the first man in my life. He was the first man I would love unconditionally and yet he turned around and betrayed that gift. He hurt me. Almost from the beginning, he hurt me.