Is Anything Really Forever?

By Michael Armijo

 

The hardest day of my life was a year ago in May. It was like every other morning with the exception that it was their anniversary. Mom and dad got up, went to brunch, went home, and then got into a little argument. My dad wanted somewhere to go to be by himself so he went to check on his rental property that was recently vacant.

I got home that night around 9 p.m. and found out my mother had called. Mom was wondering why dad wasn’t home yet, but it was like him to stay at his rental property and fix things. Mom wasn’t too worried, so I went to bed. A few hours later she called me again; “Your father still isn’t home yet, now I’m worried.” At a frantic pace, I went to his rental property and found his truck in the front of a darkened house. With a racing heart and fear to go in and find him, lying there, I called 911 for assistance.

LIFE MAKES A LEFT

I told the operator that I was afraid to enter the house by myself, I was afraid of what I might find. A sheriff deputy arrived and shined his flashlight on the front door. It was so dark at 2 am, I didn’t even notice the front door wide open. We walked inside and there was my daddy, lying in the hallway, lying on his side without movement.

I remember yelling; “He isn’t moving, why isn’t he moving?” The officer grabbed me and dragged me outside, calmed me down, and told me to wait while he checked what on was going on.

At that point I tried to convince myself he was asleep on the floor or just passed out. I was in complete denial that he would be gone – and gone forever – until the paramedics came. They ran into the house in the hopes of helping a victim survive, but three minutes later they walked out. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew one thing, I had to try to be responsible, I had to go home and tell my mom.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT

When I told my brother and sisters the news of our father, I received a different reaction from each. But the strongest reaction embedded in my memory is the one from my mom. I called my sisters to help me tell mom about dad, but they lived so far away they couldn’t be there for quite some time. I knew I couldn’t let my mom wait that long, she was waiting for me to bring my father home. I knocked on my neighbor’s door but they couldn’t hear me from their back bedroom. It was at that time I realized that no one was around and I was going to have to do this on my own, so be it.

It wasn’t the screaming or the crying that affected me so much; it was what my mother said. She was angry because she and my father had promised each other they’d leave this earth together. They made a pact. They had a deal. She was angry because he broke that pact. The deal was off. At that point I admired how strong their love was; I admired how much they really loved each other. So much so, they not only discussed how they’d be together, but how they’d leave together as well. I never knew this, and it saddens me that I had to find out about it this way. I guess sometimes regardless of what this life gives you, and regardless of how much you think you know, you find out that you never know what to expect.

A FIRST FOR EVERYTHING

Whoever said, “the hardest time after a death is the first year” was right. It’s been interesting and difficult. Death really does something to people; it really makes them change. You hear things you never thought you’d hear; you see things you never thought you’d see. That first Thanksgiving, that first Christmas. The first time one of your parents isn’t at your son’s sixth grade graduation or your daughter’s recital. Your kid’s birthday parties, your son’s little league games. You sit there enjoying yourself and then sense that something missing. The first time I felt stressed and dad wasn’t there to tell me; “it’ll all work out ok,” was my hardest. Dad wasn’t kidding when he told me; “there’s a first for everything.”

YOU NEVER KNOW

If there was one thing I’ve really had to push into my life is to enjoy it. If one of my children gets out of line or has done something wrong, I talk about it. I don’t scream and yell, and I don’t smack them. I never send them to bed on a bad note, and whenever I leave, I always give them a hug and a kiss (something my 12-year-old son tries to avoid, but I force it on him). I do this because my father and I had the worst relationship in the world. And then one day, for a reason only God may know, I confronted him with my feelings. We really opened up, laid it all on the table, and enjoyed ourselves. It took time for us to heal, but we worked on it, and in the end I had the fortunate opportunity to have a close and loving relationship with my dad. It was the fastest five years of my life.

We had fun, forgave each other, and told each other we loved each other. I am very fortunate to able to say that I don’t have any regrets about our friendship. I always wanted more from life but he always told me to “stop striving for bigger toys and invest yourself in love, because you never know, son, you just never know.”

SOME THINGS ARE FOREVER

There’s something about seeing your parents in enormous grief that does something to a person. They’re your safety net in life, they’re the one thing you can bet your life on who’ll always take you back if you failed out there in the world. They’re the ones that you knew would love you forever, regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve been. When that gets destroyed or damaged, you come to the realization that you’re definitely, and I mean definitely, on your own. Life becomes this big “do or die” situation. Ready or not it’s time to grow up. You get kind of nervous that the encouraging source in your life is gone. The wisdom they provided turns into a distant whisper.

It’s kind of like when you were in school; you’d walk into the class and find you were having a pop quiz. You felt this panic overwhelm you, and you’d try your hardest to remember what the teacher told you the day before. You had no warning, no time to prepare, the test is here and it’s now. You never anticipated this coming; it never even entered your mind. All you can do now is hope you were paying attention all that time, all you could do was hope you were a good student. Teacher’s not going to give you any answers today; you are on your own.

A day will then come, when life tests you and your ability. After you feel confident you’ve passed that test you realize an important reality: just like the love you never knew that your parents shared, some things really are forever.

   Originally published in August of 1998, this is the very first “Our Life” ever printed in The Weekly News, and the reason why we started this newspaper. It was after writing this story that I decided how short life was, and how important it is to do what you believe in. This story helped me realize what we believe in. Michael can be reached at Michael@anapr.com.