It’s been seven years since my father unexpectedly passed away. I was four months pregnant, had a two-year-old, was working full-time, and planning a move with my husband and our babies into a larger house. My life was happy and busy, but I never stopped to take hold, to tell those around me that they were important to me. I let the whirlwind take me and I moved with it.
It was a busy afternoon when I chatted with my dad. We were very close and it was not unusual for us to email each other several times during the day. Usually we said funny things to each other. We’d decide that the theme of the day was presidents and he’d refer to me as Roosevelt and I’d try to get one over on him and call him Nixon. Some days I was in a hurry and I’d only write him one line, “Talk to you tomorrow.”
For the previous month, I could tell he hadn’t been feeling well but I thought that he could take care of himself as my hands were full. I rationalized that I lived so far away. I let the whirlwind remind me of this.
On that last night when we were signing off, my dad said he was going to watch a baseball game. Usually I would have at least said, “I love you,” but this time I didn’t. Instead I just said, “Sounds good, talk to you tomorrow.”
The whirlwind took me and sped me through the rest of the next day. I briefly wondered why my dad wasn’t writing to me since he’d usually tell me his daily plans. But the whirlwind kept spinning fast: there were dishes to be washed, laundry to be put away, and groceries to buy.
At one point I tried calling him but he didn’t answer. It was then that I knew I’d missed something important.
A phone call to my dad’s landlord to check on him confirmed that my dad had died just a few hours after our last email. The cause of death was terminal cancer, which had developed rapidly within weeks and had shut down all of his organs.
The whirlwind is deceptive. It makes you think that it’s fine to move fast and that nothing will ever change. It swept me away so quickly that I never got to take hold of my dad or send him that last email to tell him that I loved him.
I saw myself spinning and buzzing through my life as my kids got older. I would be irritable, in a hurry, rushing my kids out the door.
What do you mean, you can’t find your shoe? I’d think. Oh, the crime of all crimes.
I just want them to grow up and be independent. But I don’t, not really.
The other night I lay down with my children at bedtime. The whirlwind was ready to get me out of there quickly. But this time, instead of seeing the whirlwind as a relief, I saw it as the failure that it really was. The whirlwind moved fast and once it was done, it never looked back. There were no do-overs.
If I let it, the whirlwind was going to speed me through life and someday I’d have more memories of cleaning the house than of being with my children. There would be more memories of hurrying out the door and yelling about the missing shoe then actually taking the time to look at my children’s artwork.
It was time to stop and kiss my children’s faces each morning before they went off to Kindergarten and third grade.
It was time to stop getting caught in the movement, instead of in the moments.
E. Sutherland is a wife and mom to two wonderful children. This story is dedicated to her late father Hugh J. Rice.