Sunday, February 15, 2009


Under normal circumstances, the title of this post would refer to chocolate, today being Valentine's Day. For the pessimistic amongst us, they view this holiday as a contrivance, something made up so that certain corporations, the greeting card industry amongst them, can increase their profit margin. For the romantics of the world, this is their day to celebrate. For me, it is a day that results in an emotional rollercoaster. On this day, in 1988, my dad died.

In 1984, I was in my junior year at college. I was living off campus at the time, right outside downtown Buffalo. It was a great apartment, though far removed from campus life. It was a Saturday morning in April, and I got an early morning phone call from my mom. Dad had a heart attack. I still remember very vividly slumping to the floor, overcome with emotion. I was working as a paramedic part time while away at school. They say too much knowledge can be a bad thing. In my case, it turned my life at that moment into a horror show.

My first reaction was to hop in my car and run down home, but my dad was not having any of it. He told me, through my mom, that he didn't want me coming. He said he was okay, and didn't want me to lose any time in school. I was extremely conflicted, but acquiesced to his wishes. However about four days later , though he was stable, it was determined that he would need double-bypass cardiac surgery. This time, I was the one not having any of it, and I told my mom I was coming down. "Don't tell him I'm coming if it is going to upset him." I said.

Driving down, as it turns out wasn't an option, so I quickly arranged to fly out of Buffalo into Newark. My brother picked me up, and we went to the hospital the day of the surgery. It went well, and he came out of it with flying colors. During the surgery however, he did need to have a unit of blood transfused. Not unusual for this surgery. Unfortunately, this was 1984, and in 1984, having a blood transfusion was anything but normal.

The signs of it should have been obvious to me. Denial is a powerful tool, and I probably was using it far more unconsciously that I would have cared to admit. It wasn't until a short time before he died that reality came crashing down.

Dad had AIDS. He contracted it in the transfusion. It was six months before the screen had come out. It was now 1988, and he was laying in a hospital bed, on a ventilator after going into cardiac arrest while undergoing a bronchoscopy. They revived his body, but his mind was gone. On February 13th, I kissed him good-bye for the last time. I went home, (I had graduated and was working in Brooklyn at this point.) crawled into bed, and was awakened by my brother the following morning. Dad died around 6 am, Valentine's Day, 1988.

It would forever alter what should be, under normal circumstances, a pretty happy day.

Last year was the worst it had been in a very long time. Twenty years was a bit of a milestone. This year was was better. Mrs. Nighttime and I went to dinner at a great Italian place near our home last night, and tonight we went to an improv comedy show that had a couple of friends performing in it. It was a good way to keep my mind off of it, not that I was forgetting about dad, but trying to counteract the sadness that in the past has overtaken me. Dad loved a good laugh, gave me some of my best jokes, so I think it was a rather appropriate thing to do.

So, the bittersweet feeling may not be from the chocolate that is consumed today, but it does have the same effect. In the end, you accept it for what it is, and try to enjoy the good parts, the parts that satisfy.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'm so sorry to hear this MrN. I'll raise a glass for your dad tonight. Hugs BG x

Anonymous said...

My family is full of people who decide to shuffle off on significant dates : My mother in law lost her Mum on her wedding anniversary, and her father on her sister's birthday.Father in law lost his Dad on wife's birthday. On my side paternal granddad died on his son's birthday and my dad died the day after my daughter's due date. The only happy coincidence is my son was born on his auntie's birthday. It's getting to the stage where we check on older relatives when planning a 'do' for birthdays or anniversaries.
Any mathematicians out there care to explain that this is normal?

VioletSky said...

I understand the bittersweet.
You never want to forget but remembering can be painful.

Guyana-Gyal said...

My father died in '97...that was the truly most awful, painful experience I've ever had. In many ways, it rules me, to this day I nag the people I care about to eat right, sleep, take care of their health.

Peter said...

A heartbreaking personal tale, Mr Nighttime.

Thank you for sharing though, given so many of us in the local community take HIV medication for granted.

Losing a parent is utterly earth-shattering for most, but losing that parent to a disease for which screening became available only 6m later does sound bittersweet, if not evoking very disconcerting feelings.

My thoughts are with you both.

I hope the improv comedy show managed to shift your focus on feb 14.

Jay said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. That's such a tragedy - and one that happened to many innocent people before they screened blood. I think it does take so much longer to put a loss behind you when it 'should not' have happened.

My step-FIL died after routine surgery to fuse a couple of vertebrae. His wound became infected with MRSA and he never came home from hospital. I had already left home by the time my mother remarried, so while I loved him, I wasn't as close to him as to a real father. But my Mum took years to come to terms with losing him that way. She was a nurse all her working life, so in a similar position to you.

I'm glad you had a good day with Mrs N.

battlemaiden said...

I didn't know that about your dad. Thanks for sharing.

AnneDroid said...

What a moving story. Thanks for sharing it. I'm sorry about your loss.

Anniversaries have such power, don't they? In one sense it should only be a date, but it's just so much more. And when they end up on Christmas Day, or Valentine's Day, or whatever, I think a little irrational, but human, part of us is irritated that the rest of the world is enjoying themselves in heartless disregard of our loss...

Mr. Nighttime said...

Bendy, GG, Peter, et. al. thank you for your kind words and thoughts. It will never be completely easy, and I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if dad were still alive. I do have to say that in many ways, I'm glad he wasn't here to witness my illness and transplant experience. I don't know if he would have dealt well with that.