I don’t recall the last conversation I had with my dad. I’m sure it had something to do with me taking him on his monthly errand run, which we did every 3rd of the month after he got his check. During the last two years of his life, he was unable to drive, so I took him everywhere he needed to go. Grocery shopping, bank, pharmacy, and things of that nature. My dad had issues relating to heart disease and diabetes and had been hospitalized for several days the previous year.
It was the beginning of October, and I was in Los Angeles on a press trip with Toyota at the time. Because I was coming home on the 3rd, the same day that I usually took him on his errands, we planned to do it the next day, October 4th.
On October 1st or 2nd, he called while I was in Santa Barbara, tooling around in a fully loaded 2012 Toyota Camry with a blogger friend of mine, Barb, who was also invited on this trip. We pulled over, and I listened to the voicemail he left because I had missed his call. He sounded not himself. Winded and out of breath, his voice was higher and thinner than normal. He was calling to make sure I was okay and that I would be able to take him to get groceries and pay bills when I got back in town. I promptly called him back to tell him I would, but then I got his voicemail. I told him to call me on the 4th when he was ready for me to come and get him and I would be on my way.
That call never came.
On the 4th, I slept in after getting my daughter off to school. I remember keeping my phone by my pillow so I wouldn’t miss when my dad called to summon me. By that evening, he hadn’t called, but I figured he wanted me to get some rest after being on my trip. I didn’t call him, but thought that I would go over to his house the next morning so I could take him where he needed to go.
Around 9:30 pm, I got the call—the call no one wants to get. My dad wasn’t breathing. “I think he’s dead,” they told me.
I rushed to my dad’s house in my nightgown, blue jean jacket, and flip flops, and it felt like the longest car ride of my life. After calling my Aunt, his twin sister to tell her what had happened, I talked to myself the whole 25 minute ride, praying that they were wrong and that my dad still had some life in him.
When I arrived, I was met with a bevy of neighbors and EMT first responders. I took one look at one of them and knew my dad was gone. Silent tears fell as they gave me the information and told me that I needed to arrange for a mortuary to get his body since the coroner wasn’t needed in his case since it was a “natural” death and no signs of foul play.
He was in his recliner, still. He looked like he was sleeping. He was stiff and a little darker than his true color, and he was facing the TV, and his babies, photos of my son and daughter. I’d like to think they were the last thing he saw before he slipped away.
My dad had been diagnosed with heart disease about 15 years earlier and had suffered at least one heart attack that I knew of. His health was so bad that in 2006, he was placed on disability as he couldn’t work his normal computer programming gig anymore. My dad continued to smoke cigarettes and eat fried, greasy foods even though he was told by many doctors not to.
I felt like in the end, he just gave up.
The first few years after my dad died, I vocally blamed him for killing himself. If he would’ve just done what the doctors told him and stopped smoking and eating bad things and if he got active and lost the weight—maybe he would still be here.
Maybe. Maybe not.
We will never know. I no longer place fault on him, though. I think he wanted to go out the way he wanted to go out. He was always stubborn to a fault. He always wanted to do things his way. I am not sure if he knew that his time on this earth was coming to an end, but I feel that he wanted to be in charge. I feel that he wanted to be released from the body that was holding him hostage.
I am Michael Anthony Smith’s only child. Me alongside my son and daughter are his only physical remaining legacy. We are his reminders to this world that he once existed.
My dad was my everything and I was closer to him than I was my mother, whom he divorced when I was 18. He came to all of my school concerts, and he drove me to Honors Chorus at 6 am in the morning every week when we lived in Phoenix, AZ. It was he who took me to the mall to buy my first bra, and to shop for school clothes, which I tried on for him every time before he bought them so he could make sure I dressed as a “nice young lady”.
Not having a son, he took me to the Houston Oilers football games when we lived in Houston, and to see the Phoenix Suns play when we lived in Arizona. I watched basketball with him and listened to music with him—he was the one who introduced me to Prince and is responsible for my fan girl behavior.
I don’t blame you anymore, dad. I know your last years on earth were painful. Hard. Stressful.
I still love you to the moon and back, and I don’t think I will find anyone else in this world who loved me as much as you did.
Thank you, Daddy, for everything. Thank you.