April 19, 1998
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in late April. The weather that year had been unusually warm, what the weather It was a beautiful Sunday morning in late April. The weather that year had been unusually warm, what the weather people like to call El Nino. It was the perfect weather to be outside playing a pick-up game of basketball or perhaps going for a walk and soaking up the warmth of the sun. Instead of any of those things, I was stuck inside writing a report on New Hampshire that I had put off until the last minute.
I set up our rickety old card table with hunter green pleather riddled with holes on the tabletop. It was the kind of table that must have been cutting edge back in its prime, but twenty years down the line, it was more amazing that it was still standing. I tucked the table and a solitary chair under a wall of unfinished cupboards. The entire kitchen was one big, unfinished project, like an afterthought, but really it was just waiting for the funding that never came.
Luckily for me I didn’t have to suffer through the stuffiness that comes with every building in the springtime alone, my mom would be there to share in it with me. There was a sizable pile of dirty dishes that had accumulated over the past few days, just sitting on the counter waiting. We kids would rather have at least two but no more than three teeth pulled than be subjected to hand washing dishes – in other words, mom was stuck in the stuffy kitchen doing the dishes, again – and no dishwasher existed in our unfinished kitchen.
So there we were both of us stuck in the kitchen against our will, mom however really got the short end of the stick because she was doing the dishes and helping me whenever I asked for it (which of course was more than I needed, but it filled the silence).
“Hey mom, did you know that Manchester is the largest city in New Hampshire.”
“Mmhmm, it’s bigger than Concord, right?”
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool, you know that we went to church there, and lived so close.”
“Oh yeah, that’s the same church that you won the talent competition at. Do you remember that? You were fearless,” she said with a smile on her face.
I laughed at the memory, “I sang I’m a little teapot! It was my favorite song!”
We continued with that back and forth conversation while I sat writing what I believed to be the most amazing, insightful, and informative report on the great state of New Hampshire. Mom stood at the kitchen sinks washing, rinsing and stacking the dishes (which incidentally were my chore to do) sharing little bits of memory tied to the facts that I would throw out from our truly ancient Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia. The steady movement of dishes from one sink to another, the bursts of water to rinse them and then the clinking of the dishes being put in the drying rack set a rhythm that helped my pencil to move fluidly.
Things went on like this for a while, though I wasn’t paying any attention to the time, I was actually enjoying the alone time with Mom. With three kids, my dad being an independent contractor in the carpentry business and Mom being the only one with a steady income, there wasn’t much time in any day where we could spend alone.
Our alone time didn’t last as long as it took for me to finish my report though because my dad came home earlier than expected. He had been at the school’s open gym playing basketball with the majority of the town, but he cut it short and when he got back home, he headed straight upstairs to take a shower. I couldn’t help but think that maybe I would get some undivided attention from them both, something that I had never and would never experience.
When he was all cleaned up and dressed, he came back downstairs, through the living room and into the kitchen. Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead and some had even begun to trail down his temples and cheeks, which were flushed a deep scarlet red. Instinctively I looked up as I heard the ripping of paper towels. I watched him do the same thing as always, he ripped off two paper towels, folded them in half lengthwise first and then widthwise, dabbed his face and neck and then press them to his forehead and let go. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for him, he was a sweater. I put my head down and let them talk.
“Kate, my chest has been hurting most of the day. That’s why I came home early.”
My mom instantly stopped in mid rinse and looked at him with alarm written all over her face, and answered, “Do you want to go in?” He didn’t hesitate for a second, just agreed and went out to the car, got in the passenger side, shut the door, and buckled up. Mom turned the water off, went around what was supposed to be the breakfast bar and quickly picked up her purse and the keys.
Before she left, she turned to me and said, “We’ll be back as soon as we can, just keep working on your report and if you need anything find your brothers or go to Aunt Janine’s. I love you.” Without waiting for an answer or acknowledgement she turned and jogged to our old Cutlass Sierra and took off immediately.
Their leaving in such a rush should have had an impact on me, but instead of being worried, I was angry. Who was he to steal my time with Mom? I needed her help with my report. Now they had to go twenty minutes away to the hospital emergency room and I was stuck there, alone. I cried and stomped my feet and yelled to an empty room in an empty house.
“Why do you have to ruin everything? I need Mom’s help, not you! I hate you; I hate you; I hate you! I wish you were dead!” I screamed until my throat hurt and I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere and wouldn’t.
It was two months ago all over again, and there I was at the school waiting for the boy’s fifth and sixth grade basketball game to start for my debut cheerleading. I scanned the crowd looking for my dad, he was supposed to be there, he promised. I had my hopes up, like always. The game started and there I was on the sidelines cheering for the first time, and he was nowhere to be seen. He never showed up, another broken promise. Pretty soon my heart was going to be full of his broken promises. I didn’t know why I let myself hope when it never got me anywhere. I went home that night and of course he wasn’t home, he wouldn’t be home until the bar closed. I cried myself to sleep like I did every time he let me down. I heard him stumble up the stairs in the middle of the night, go into his bedroom and start yelling at mom for something stupid like always. I rolled over, covered my head, and tried to ignore World War whatever number they were on this time, I knew that they were fighting about him letting me down again, just like the Christmas play, and my first year playing basketball, and the Christmas play the year before that, and every night in between.
I calmed myself down then went back to the kitchen. I took a few deep breaths to remind myself that he must be sick this time, it wasn’t his drinking, he was sober now, day 15, post-treatment and he was sober. All of the anger that had been bottling up since I was young enough to be aware of the kind of drunk my dad was, escaped in that moment. I wasn’t mad that they left I was mad about everything before. Just as I picked my pencil up the kitchen door opened and in came my parents. It had only been about five minutes and I could feel the stirrings of shame and embarrassment at my ranting and harsh words that I didn’t mean. I was thankful that they hadn’t seen or heard any of it because judging by the looks on their faces I would have been in deep trouble.
“What happened? How come you’re back so soon?” I tried to sound as though I was worried so that the tear tracks and flushed cheeks appeared to be from that. I tried not to let them see how appeased I was that I had gotten my way.
“We made it to the Cando corner and the pain went away so we came back; must just be a little heartburn, nothing to worry about,” my dad answered. Something in his voice struck a nerve, and everything came in clearer, making more sense. Yet, there was a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I felt sick all of a sudden with no reasonable explanation, sick and scared. My heart started to race and there were little white star bursts in front of my eyes.
I had heard that tone before, last spring, when the storm of the decade hit in late March, dumping several feet of snow in a horrible blizzard. I had only been nine, but I remember the weather reports on, I remember the white flurry of snow in the early afternoon, and I remember dad being at the bar. Mom called up to the bar to ask him to come home, and he said the usual, “Sure, sure, I’ll be there soon.” She went up there to ask him to come home, but she came home alone. When she had gone up to get the smell of stale smoke off of her, I picked up the phone and called the bar, “Daddy, please come home? Come make dinner tonight, we can have tacos, please?” He promised he would be home to make supper, but he never came home. Even after the bar closed, he never came home. We lived in a small town, so it was only about two blocks from the bar to our house, but the blizzard was severe, and his gloves and winter hat were sitting in the closet next to the front door. I prayed that he would sleep at the bar, Steve, the owner, and my dad’s best friend, would let him do that, but Steve drove home, without bringing dad. He lived next door but didn’t bring dad with him. Dad tried to walk home and made it only one block. He had to punch in one of our church’s windows and climb inside. There was no power, no heat, but there were quilts. When he came home the next morning, I remember him sitting in his chair and his fingers were purple, and he had that same tone in his voice when he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. See no frostbite.”
I didn’t believe that he would be fine the year before, and I couldn’t believe him this time either. Suddenly my dad doubled over and screamed in pain, excruciating pain. I had heard him yell more times than I could count, but he never sounded like this and it terrified me. I didn’t have any clue what was going on, I just knew that I needed to be scared.
Mom jumped to action immediately. She grabbed the cordless phone from its cradle and dialed 9-1-1. She told the dispatcher that we were in Starkweather and that her husband was having chest pains. Then she said she thought he was having a heart attack. Heart attack, I heard it over and over in my head and it seemed as though for an instant the world slowed enough for the wave of panic to grow to tsunami size before crashing over me. Everything went back to normal speed and the dread settled.
Mom was still on the phone as she headed to the car, helping Dad to get in the passenger side as he clutched his heart with tears rolling down his face and groaning in pain. This time I was going with, I felt like I had to. I got into the backseat behind my dad and buckled up. We left the house; Mom was telling the dispatcher that we were heading to Cando and to send an ambulance in case we didn’t make it all the way there. She was still trying to talk as we drove out of the range of the phone’s base. In hindsight, it didn’t seem like the best idea to call 9-1-1 and then leave to go where they were sending the ambulance from, but when panic sets in, people act and react irrationally most of the time. So, we left.
The phone shrieked with static forcing Mom to turn it off. Dad was still moaning and saying “Oh God! I’m going to die!” Those words passed through my ears and froze my blood. Tears began flowing down my face and dripped onto my shirt collar until it was soaked. What did I do? I wished he was dead, and now he was dying. I prayed. I prayed for my words to be taken back, I didn’t mean them; I didn’t want him to die!
Mom looked at me through the rear-view mirror and firmly said, “Monica, I want you to sit behind your dad. Hold his shoulders back against the seat.” Instinctively I reached forward and held on as tightly as I possibly could, but I wasn’t strong enough.
We had made it out of town, down the three miles to the corner, turned and about seven more miles down the highway when my hands slipped and he slumped forward onto the dash, unconscious. Mom started yelling his name, “John! John! Oh God, John, sit up, wake up!” His heart had arrested, and he couldn’t answer her. She slammed on the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road. She ran around to the passenger side and pulled my dad out onto the ground.
“Monica, run, run to Carlson’s farm and tell them to call 9-1-1. The ambulance needs to know where we are. You have to go and make sure to call them and tell them. GO!”
I didn’t want to leave them, but her tone implied that there was no contesting. To this day I don’t know why she sent me there. The call was pointless, it wasn’t going to get them to get to us any faster; they were already moving as fast as possible. In hindsight, I am sure that she meant to protect me, to shield me from this experience. No kid should see their dad on the side of the road like that.
I ran as fast as I could go, I didn’t look back. Waving my arms above my head and screaming for help was giving me something to think about, something that kept my mind off of my world crumbling down around me. He’s dying, was running through my head with each stride I took, urging me to go faster.
The farm owner must have seen me right away because he rode up on a four-wheeler and told me to jump on without asking anything more. We sped to his house where his wife met us at the door. I knew them; we went to the same church. It was merely a small comfort at the time, but better than if they had been complete strangers.
“What’s going on dear? Come in, sit down and tell us what’s going on,” Mrs. Carlson said kindly as she led me to their kitchen. Her voice betrayed no emotion, but the alarm was clearly written on her face and in her eyes.
“My – my – my dad, he’s dying. Please call 9-1-1, we need help,” I cried through wracking sobs.
I didn’t know how else to say it, he said he was going to die, and I could hear his voice, those words constantly replaying in my head. I was hoping beyond all hope that I was wrong, or that it was just a bad dream and I would soon wake up and life would be back to normal. I would take him drunk and yelling over this, he can drink all he wants as long as he is still alive. I think I would have made any deal I could just to save his life, even if I knew I would later regret it.
She picked up the phone and called 9-1-1 again, explaining the situation and where my parents were pulled over. Meanwhile I collapsed into a kitchen chair and all I could do was cry. My knees were bouncing up and down and every second that ticked by on the clock seemed like an eternity. I needed to leave, I needed to get back to my dad, and I needed to help my mom. Mrs. Carlson made one more phone call to someone who carried a portable defibrillator and asked them to come immediately. Finally, they were ready to bring me back. This time we climbed into their pick-up truck with me in the middle. She reached out and took my hand, gave it a squeeze, and then let go. We drove back to my parents.
While I had been gone there were three other vehicles that had stopped to help. Some of the people I recognized and some I didn’t, but they all seemed to have the same thought, keep me away from my dad. I managed to break through the crowd for a moment. As soon as my eyes met Mom I froze. She was kneeling on the ground next to my dad crying.
There was a man I didn’t know performing CPR and my eyes followed his arms as they pumped down and up on my dad’s chest. I couldn’t bring my eyes up to his face. He just looked so stiff, unmoving except when the man pumped, keeping his heart beating for him. It was my worst nightmare coming true.
Mom saw me right before the grownups surrounded me and pulled me away despite my struggle to stay there. After I was out of the crowd, I looked up to see who had my arm and realized that I knew him. He was the father of one of my friends, Mr. Ellingson, Laura’s dad. I allowed him to steer me to his car where Mrs. Ellingson, my oldest brother’s science teacher and Laura were sitting. I climbed in the backseat and tried to see what was going on, at least for a while. I eventually gave up; it was clear that my view was obstructed intentionally. For the first time, Laura didn’t have any words of advice for me. She was a year older than me, but her parents had gone through a terrible divorce and when my parents had threatened divorce, she was there to help me through it, but this was something she didn’t know how to help me through, so we just sat there in silence.
There was so much commotion and movement that I could barely tell what was going on and it was just making me sick bobbing and ducking in futile attempts. Finally, I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to see anything, so I gave up, sat back, and let my tears fall. The Mrs. Ellingson was trying her best to comfort me, “He’ll be okay Monica. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. It’ll be okay, I promise.” Foolishly I grasped onto that promise, not allowing myself to believe anything different. It was what I wanted to feel and what I wanted to be true, so it was an easy faith to hold. She knew that she had no standing to make that promise, but there’re no other words that comfort better than a promise, and I clung to it, like I always did with impossible promises.
Precious minutes ticked by with no sign of an ambulance. Every minute past sucked away more hope. The couple who had the portable defibrillator happened to be the parents of my brother’s classmate. They pulled up and the feeling of relief was palpable, hope was temporarily restored. They wasted no time and rushed straight to my dad; the crowd parted without them having to say anything.
It was only minutes later when sirens could be heard, and the ambulance pulled up. It had been a half hour since my dad had arrested, it took the ambulance a half hour to drive ten miles. A fact that I would carry in my head and my heart for many years, fueling my anger that I used to dull the pain. I took the opportunity that arose with the commotion of the arrival of the ambulance and rushed to my mom, no one was going to stop me because I needed to be with her.
The EMTs were loading my dad onto a stretcher and then into the back of the ambulance, all the while, one of them was performing CPR, trying to get his heart going. The crowd was thinning and tapering off as the strangers began to leave. They each wished us the best and promised to pray for our family. The couple decided to continue on to the hospital to sit with us and help make calls to our family members. The Carlson’s headed back home, and the Ellingson’s volunteered to go back to Starkweather and find my brothers to bring them to the hospital. They left immediately and I got into the front passenger side of our car and buckled up as if to establish firmly that I was staying with my mom. No one argued.
Mom got in and I tried to fill the ten minutes with mindless babble, never knowing that what I was saying was selfish and ridiculous, “Well, I guess that if I don’t get a chance to finish my report tonight I can just tell Mrs. Baker that dad had a heart attack.” Mom didn’t respond, I don’t think she even heard me. I don’t think I heard myself; I just couldn’t stay quiet because my mind would start working in overdrive and it would suffocate me. I would drown in the misery that my words had brought about.
We arrived at the hospital but weren’t allowed in the emergency room. How could they justify not letting us in, that was my dad in there! I wasn’t thinking about the fact that doctors have enough on their plates without having to be observed by the family when they are trying to save a member of that family. They were working on restarting my dad’s heart, again, but it wasn’t responding. We were told when we got there that it had started back up on the way to the hospital. I don’t know if that was true or not, it sounds like something they would say so that we would be appeased and hold onto a little hope.
I got on my tiptoes to look in the little window on the door to see him, but a nurse saw and drew the curtain and blocked my view again. I was so frustrated. Why couldn’t anyone understand, that’s my dad! I just wanted to see him; I needed to apologize for wishing for this. I needed God and my dad to know that I didn’t mean it, I didn’t want him to die, and I needed him.
I took to pacing the halls as my mom was sitting and waiting. I couldn’t stand still, and I couldn’t look at my mom. She didn’t say much, words were useless in this situation, so she just sat there trying to keep it together.
I walked back and forth, down, and back the long hallway outside the emergency room thinking about what a selfish, stuck up brat I had been to him lately. I had been taking every chance that I could to fight with him, to make him mad. It was as though I felt that I had to push his buttons to make sure that he was going to uphold his last promise to me.
It had been fifteen days since he had come home from the VA hospital in Fargo. He had spent six weeks in their treatment facility, getting only two day passes, and those only when we came to visit him. I had written him one letter, and he had written me one back. That letter would become my most prized possession, a testament that he loved me, because he told me, that he was proud of me, because he told me. That was something that no one else had, just me, and I clung to it. The night before he was sent to treatment, he had made me a promise. It had been the worst night of his drinking that I can remember. He came home from the bar, belligerently drunk, and angry. It was a whiskey night; he was a mean drunk on whiskey. He started in on my mom as soon as he had gotten home, yelling, and throwing anything within his reach. I found out later that it was over a missing piece on his meat grinder in the kitchen that he insisted was lost by my brother, and when my mom told him what an ass he was being, off to the bar he went. My mom called the police that night, it was one of the only times that she had ever done that, and a sign that dad was at rock bottom this time. I was hiding in my room, and I could hear my dad yelling that he would take his shotgun and kill whatever officer tried to come into his house. “The only way you are going to get me out of this house is in a body bag, you hear me?!?!” I was terrified, but this was one time that I was not going to let him scare me into staying in bed. Matthew, my oldest brother, had snuck downstairs to hide the shotguns and the shells, and when my dad left his bedroom and started heading down the stairs, my mom was still on the phone in her room, so I summoned all my courage and went to the top of the stairs. Dad was halfway down, and he turned to look at me when I yelled, “STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! Leave us alone, you’re drunk, so just go pass out!” My mom came running out of her bedroom to me and grabbed me as my dad yelled, “YOU BETTER SHUT HER UP BEFORE I KNOCK HER INTO TOMORROW!” He’d never threatened me before and never did again. The shock and hurt of his words were enough to deflate me and I went back to bed crying. Police pulled up to the house, guns drawn and talked my dad down. They had him in handcuffs and in the back when he asked them for one thing before they brought him to jail, and they allowed him that one thing. He walked into my room with tears streaming down his face and sat on the edge of my bed. I had never seen him cry before and I knew that something had changed. “I really messed up this time toots. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean what I said, I want you to know that. I would never ever hurt you. I’m going to go, and make a few changes and when I come back things will be better, okay? I promise you that I am done drinking. I promise you.”
Dana, one of the people who followed us to the hospital, brought me to my mom and took our hands, shaking me out of the memory that I was engulfed in. She bowed her head and started to pray, “Our father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen.”
There wasn’t much more that any of us could do. So, we sat outside the door and prayed as we waited for someone to come out and tell us news, any news about how he was doing. While we were waiting my brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents arrived. I went with my mom as we met my brothers in the front entry of the hospital. Everyone just kind of backed off, recognizing the need to do this one thing all together.
“Your dad has had a heart attack. It is very serious,” she said in almost a whisper.
My oldest brother became stoic. He stepped up as the strong one immediately, but Shane, the middle child, his face crumpled as he slid down the wall onto the floor. Again, my stomach clenched, and my heart hurt. I thought that I was going to be sick as what are they going to do when they find out that this is my fault, kept running through my mind.
Once my brothers had gotten themselves ready, we went and joined everyone else. Our entire family was led down the hall, away from the ER, and into the waiting room. Everyone sat in the room and no one said anything, because no one could find the words. So, we waited. My tears should have run dry by now, but they seemed to flow even faster. We all knew what news was coming but didn’t want to believe. We didn’t have long to wait.
A doctor came to the door of the waiting room and motioned for my mom to come over to him. He was whispering to my mom and he reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. Right before he turned to leave, I read his lips, I’m sorry. My heart sank as my mom turned back to everyone in the room and walked back to the couch where she had been sitting before. She sank down and said, “What am I doing to do?” She looked lost and broken and kept repeating herself continually.
Everyone in the room went into different modes, comforting my mom, talking to the doctor, crying, and praying. Shane had climbed behind a chair and huddled in one of the corners of the room crying. I felt as though I was in a dream, maybe if I screamed loud enough, I would wake up and it wouldn’t be true.
I started screaming, “NO! NO! NO!” and shaking my head back and forth. I didn’t wake up. It wasn’t a dream it was real life, a real-life nightmare. My heart felt like it was ripped in half. I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. The walls were closing in on me and everyone in it was trying to tell me the impossible. I had to get away, escape. So, I ran. I ran out of the hospital and burst into the sunshine taking deep gulps of fresh air. I tried to make sense of everything. The whole world had shifted.
I collapsed onto the concrete and on my hands and knees I heaved, and cried, and kept saying, “What have I done? What have I done?” I was sure the guilt and the sorrow were going to suffocate me. I didn’t deserve to live. I couldn’t be forgiven for this, and I definitely didn’t deserve forgiveness. I was the lowest of the low, wishing my father dead. I wished that I was dead. Nothing would ever be right again, I knew that, and I knew that it was on my shoulders. I broke my family.
My dad could NOT be dead! This was the cruelest prank. I started hyperventilating again and collapsed completely onto the concrete sidewalk and curled into a ball on my side. There was a fiery pain spreading from my heart through my whole body. I thought I was going to vomit. One thing I was sure of was that this was my fault, completely, irreversibly, my fault. I was stupid and selfish, and I killed my own dad. It should have been me, not him; I said it and it should have been me instead. It was unfair!
A voice pierced through my thoughts. My aunt and cousin had followed me. They helped me up, but there was nothing that anyone could say to stop the pain. I wanted to die, I wanted to wake up and have it all been a bad dream, but neither would come so I suffered. I was broken, with a hole in my heart and I was never again going to be the same. I was only ten, I never got to know him, and he never got to know me. Now it was too late, and we’d never get the chance to live the life we should have.
I was brought back into the waiting room so that everyone could be together and decide what to do now and where to go from here. Our family doctor came into the waiting room. She thought it would be helpful to the healing process if I saw my dad’s body, maybe that way it would make it real. My mom agreed, though I thought that I didn’t need any more proof than what I experienced in the car, but I thought that she needed it more than me, she needed it for me, so I went. When we walked into the room and I saw him I had to fight the urge to run away. I wanted to reach out and tell him to stop pretending and get up, but I knew there was no use. His lips were an inhuman shade of blue and he was so cold. I had to leave before the cold loneliness smothered me.
I walked the hallway all the way back to the family room. I was told that my aunt and uncle would bring my brothers and me home; Mom would be along in a bit, after making arrangements. I didn’t want to know about the arrangements, so I went straight to the car and got in. Everyone else followed suit. My uncle started up the car and headed out. Right at the edge of Cando, Sophie B. Hawkins came on the radio. Now I Lay Me played in the car as the sun shone brightly in the sky. We tried to fathom what was to come, what life was going to be like from here on in.
The next few days went by in a blur of emotions. Family came from all over, people from our community came to help out around the house and brought food over. I tried to go back to school the next Monday, but it was too difficult. I was in the bathroom crying when two girls in my class came in, and one of them said, “Did you hear the town drunk is dead?” It was a red-hot poker to my heart, and I left the stall, looked her in the eyes and left. I didn’t return to school for a week, and then only went back because my mom told me I had no other choice. The girl was careful around me from then on in, always being nice, but every time I looked at her, my stomach turned sour and I felt the urge to inflict bodily harm on her. I turned my rage inward, punishing myself rather than anyone else.
I spent sleepless nights and long days, silently wondering to myself if the pain would kill me. Would everyone find out what I had said? Would they blame me as much as I blame myself? The pain didn’t kill me, and I blamed myself for years before ever talking to anyone about it. The guilt turned to anger, and I had no outlet for that so I would punch inanimate objects. I hurt myself in ways that I knew no one would see and that I knew were only there to dull my emotional pain. I never saw the man who was my father again. I saw his body at the family service, but he was gone. I stood next to the casket and cried and said, “You promised it would be better. This isn’t better. Get up, please.” He never took another drink after the night he had promised me that, it was the one promise that he kept, but it wasn’t enough. I never even got to say good-bye.