11 years ago today

Now. I’ve written this next part down so many times I’m amazed that the story never changes. Maybe it’s just the story I’ve created in my head over the last 11 years, or maybe what actually happened is so entrenched that I’ll never forget it. Either way, this is how my version goes:

I was at my internship at the medical school, on a Tuesday? I’m sure it was a Tuesday. Today is also a Tuesday – it’s strange how some things don’t change at all. We’ll always have Tuesdays, we’ll always have the time of the day, we’ll always have a new year. At least as long as I’m around. A lifetime is not that long. When my mom texted me in her worried tone I don’t know how to tell you this…your father is saying he is going to kill himself, I wasn’t surprised. This is just like him to do something extreme to get us – me, my mom, my brothers – to feel sorry for him. We can’t feed into his every wish, just because he’s depressed and lonely and lost. He’s a child and he needs to grow up. This is serious…please fly home today. Your brother has called the police.

I left my internship, said I had a family emergency, I’ll be back in a few days. I went back to my apartment on Lindell Blvd, carefully packed some of my favorite things into a small bag, and was stung when I saw the flight prices to Fort Lauderdale. I asked my mom if I really needed to go. Yes baby…we all need to be there for him. She had to fly back too, she was visiting my brother Marc in California. We were all going back for him.  

I drove myself to the airport. I had a layover somewhere, I can’t remember where. I can’t remember the airport where I started to seriously consider the idea that my dad might put a gun to his head and end his life. I couldn’t reach anyone – my mom and Marc were on another flight, and my other brother Jay wasn’t answering his phone. An unknown number called me – it was a neighbour I hadn’t spoken to in years. He asked me what was going on, why the police had barricaded my house and blocked off access to half of the neighbourhood. I cried at this unknown generic airport, waiting to board the flight to Fort Lauderdale. I cried loud and hard, so many strange faces staring at me and wondering what could possibly be so wrong. 

I cried during the entire flight to Florida. I had no idea what was happening to my dad. I landed at 11pm. I called my brother Jay, who was in Florida, to ask what was going on. He told me two family friends were coming to get me from the airport and that I just needed to get home. I knew this airport so well. The blue carpet, the dolphins on the walls, letting you know you’ve made it to the sea. You’re about to embark on a cruise. I passed through baggage claim still holding myself together. I’d be home soon.

I called the neighbour and all he said was I’m so sorry.

Before I could ask what do you mean, I fell to my knees. I was in the entryway of the airport, in between two sets of sliding doors. People brushed past me with their rollie bags, or stopped to ask if I’m okay, I’m not sure which. Both.

I managed to find our family friends outside. Barry and Shelley Yeckes. Shelley has bright red hair, Barry dark grey. They live across the street from us, they have a mezuzah hanging next to their door, to protect those inside. We don’t have a mezuzah.

Barry drove the car, and Shelley sat next to me in the back, stroking my hair. We drove south to Miami to pick up my mom and brother at that airport. We waited inside for them. Their plane finally landed, and I watched my mom and brother walk towards us. My mom’s quick, hurried steps – she hates for people to wait on her. My brother a safe distance behind her, having her back. Let’s go get our Dad. My brother read my face and grabbed our mom like an animal, protecting her from the harsh floor. She started crying and yelling no in the middle of the airport, while my brother held onto her tight.

We arrived at the house. My brother Jay tried to warn us. It looks like a circus. The whole house was lit up. There were a dozen police cars outside the front of the house. Our golden retriever ran out to us, wagging her tail.

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