5 Years

Five years is a significant amount of time. People have 5 year plans. Five years ago, my world was completely different.

In 2008, I was dating Pat but things weren’t going great. I was annoyed that he still hadn’t proposed (we had been together for about 6 years). We had been living together for almost 2 years and I was getting the feeling it was never going to happen. I was working a job that I hated (Reception at a very small engineering and manufacturing firm that made add-on armor for tanks for the Canadian department of defense.), making almost no money. I was very concerned about money at the time. My group of friends had just changed significantly, and I was feeling lonely and depressed. I was trying so hard to be cool and to fit in. I went from my high school posse to a new group of misfits – punk folks who had serious relationship issues and basically acted like teenagers 24/7. My mother was going through treatment for her cancer and was going to be having minor heart surgery to fix her tachycardia. My Dad was her primary caregiver, but was starting to get resentful of being left at home all summer while she went out with friends.

Me, 2008
Me, 2008

On September 24th, 2008, I was at work. I remember being in a good mood. I was trying something new with my makeup that day. I was wearing real lipstick and had done a heavier eye. A couple of the shop guys had commented that I looked like I was trying too hard so I was starting to get bitchy. I was talking to the finance manager when the phone rang. I answered it and it was my Mom. She sounded wrong. She had just had the heart surgery a day or two before, so I was worried she was having problems. She told me to get home. Now. Dad was unconscious on the floor and the paramedics were working on him. She didn’t know which hospital they would be going to, so she wanted me to meet her at the house first. I panicked a bit. I ran around, trying to figure out how I was going to get there (I had no car at the time). The finance manager offered to drive me.

I got to the house and was confused to see a fire truck driving away. There was two cop cars and an ambulance. The paramedics were packing up. I didn’t understand. I told one of them that I was the daughter and he blithely said that my Dad was dead on the kitchen floor. I asked about my mother and he seemed confused. I explained that she had just had a procedure on her heart and he shrugged it off. I found her and took care of her. I felt ridiculous with my face full of makeup. I felt obscene. I rubbed it all off. My father’s body lay where my mother had dragged him to perform CPR. We had to leave him there for the coroner to check him out.

The rest of the day consisted of making terrible phone calls, getting my sister home from Calgary with her friend, Lacy, as support for her. You see, I thought she was all alone out there and needed someone to get her to us. My Dad’s kids came over, Pat came to me. He became my rock. Mom’s friends flocked to her side, as did mine. We joked, we laughed, we drank lots of coffee and waited with broken hearts for the coroner to take him away. Someone had put a blanket over him, finally. He lay there for something like 4 hours. It was horrible and beautiful, the way that death normally is. The family came together and we clung to each other desperately. I helped Mom plan the funeral.

Family on the day of Dad's Funeral
Family on the day of Dad’s Funeral
Family on the day of Dad’s burial

Five years later, I sit here with my son on the floor, playing with the Guitar Hero guitar, growling like a tiger, while Sesame street plays in the background. My Dad’s children, people I called Brother and Sister for my whole life, haven’t been a part of my life in years and are now only in my mind as characters in my nightmares. My mother is dead, and my husband is my best friend (He proposed 2 months after my father’s death, by the way). My sister is a University graduate, home owner, and is in the process of starting her own business, all in Calgary. My family home is gone. My group of friends is completely different and I finally feel…whole. And supported. And loved. I am getting treatment for my depression. I work at an amazing place, with amazing people. I have tattoos and piercings, just like I always wanted but was too worried about how others would see me. We’re almost broke, but it doesn’t matter because we are getting through and we are happy.

Me, 2013. Priorities are a little different.
Me, 2013
Me, 2013

Daddy, I love you and I miss you. I often have dreams that you and I are sitting at the kitchen table, having one of our late night talks. I love seeing so much of you in my son. You were my person. If ever I had a decision to make and I didn’t know what to do, I knew I could talk it out with you. You never made me feel like I was too sensitive or emotional, unlike the rest of the family. You got me. You knew me and you loved me for who I was. xo

JR Sutherland, 1938-2008
JR Sutherland, 1938-2008