Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dad’s Big Brother

I was in ninth grade when my Uncle Rich died.

I’d never known anyone who had died. I had never been to a funeral. Uncle Rich was the first person; Uncle Rich's was the first funeral.

He died of a heart attack. He had it at home, in his basement, running on the treadmill on a January morning before work. His body was in the basement all day.

Before Uncle Rich’s body was taken away, my Aunt Sarah slipped the shoes he was wearing off of his feet. I don’t know why. Over the course of the week that my family was in Ohio for the funeral, I would sneak down to the basement and stare at those shoes. I never touched them.

Uncle Rich was 44.

When the grief subsided to the point where they could function, my dad and his siblings had their hearts tested. They found out what they already knew: they’re at high risk. Heart disease runs in the family.

Grandma, Dad’s mom, followed Uncle Rich 20 months ago. She died of a heart attack.

Whenever the phone rings at an unexpected time, whenever a family member calls me multiple times and neglects to leave a message, I’m certain that they’re calling me to tell me that my dad is dead. Of a heart attack.

It’s hard to live so frightened. I’m terrified of his death -- an inevitable event.

My own, selfish fears are why I cried this morning while reading an email from C., my college roommate. C. wrote about her job hunt and our favorite professor; she slipped in the news of her father’s death. She’s living what I am most afraid of.

I’m sad for C; I’m scared for my family.

And I'm scared for myself.

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