All the Nuances of the Moment I Learned He Died by Zachary Userbaugh

By Zachary Userbaugh
October 24, 2015

I slept in this Saturday. There was no real need to be at work, and even if there was, I had earned a weekend off. Laura and I had the first morning sex since I can’t remember when. It was playful, fast, but slow enough to ignore seven phone calls. I knew there couldn’t be anything really going on, and that most had to be from DSA. 

We both finished. I was right about most of the missed calls. Two were from Mom and Dad. I knew something was up from the fact that the voicemails only asked me to call them back as soon as possible. I knew it was about Grandpa. I knew that I couldn’t take the news in front of Laura. I went to the bathroom. Dad got to it quick. Grandpa didn’t make it. I was sitting on the toilet. I had looked at Laura’s feet, really looked at them, for the first time that morning.

 “Okay,” I said.

I let dad do most of the talking. He was talking slow. I asked something or other about when. He let me know they were going to be doing an autopsy. None of that is important. None of it was important and he knew that and I knew that. What really happened over the phone?

I was dry for what felt like minutes. Why were my legs starting to shake? I didn’t know if I expected to cry but I certainly wasn’t at first. You always feel like you have to. But I wasn’t. Then the shaking started. That was refreshing because it was unexpected, unplanned, though perhaps heard of. Or maybe only seen in movies? But it was involuntary and it meant I was having some reaction. Anything to be feeling different.

Dad said it might have been a stroke, nothing to do with surgery but probably everything to do with the surgery. Dad said Grandpa was tired of people saying how great he was doing. I laughed at that. It was just a tear and a couple gushes at first. Probably soon after the shaking. I don’t remember if he started describing details before or after he heard me crying. He told me it was okay, that I didn’t have to hang up.

“I know,” I said.

It was only a couple minutes of off and on snot sniffling, gushing and half weeping. There was at least one good weeping with full on tears. But there was also this confusion over how I was handling this. 

I talked to Mom before I got off the phone. She wanted to know if Laura was there to hug me. She said I could call to hear her breathe if I wanted. I told them that if I needed to, I would call. Mom was obviously not as hurt as Dad or I, and I am glad. Dad is going to need someone strong so he can be strong for Pam and Donna. Mom was more worried about us. What a miracle that they were able to get a hold of Nick.

What am I supposed to do? I don’t really want to call Linda or Donna or anyone. I am now laughing to the definition of hysterically, alone in the bathroom. So few thoughts go with it. Only those of presentness and a scene or two of times with Grandpa.

*Names changed to respect the privacy of individuals mentioned.