My phone started buzzing
Pulled from sleep, I fumbled to remove my sleep apnea mask and simultaneously reach for my phone, which went about as well as you might imagine.
The buzzing stopped just as Tracey threw herself across my body to try get to it in time. There followed a brief moment where neither of us moved as we both tried to wake up enough to form thoughts and possibly sentences.
Then the buzzing started again, only from Tracey’s side of the bed. A warm and not unpleasant weight lifted off my chest as she dove towards her bedside table.
“Hello?” she murmured huskily as she jabbed the screen. “Hello?”
Someone spoke and my sweet wife said something which instantly identified the caller.
“Happy Birthday,” she croaked.
“What the fark are you doing?” I mouthed incredulously. At least my lips were moving. I’m not sure any sound came out. The screen on my own phone told me it was three thirty in the morning: There was simply no way this was going to be good news.
My heart was already kicking up the pace and that tingly numbness had begun to crawl over my skin. It was, as Tracey had sleepily half sung into the phone, my sister’s fiftieth, but it was also the day her husband, Daz, was to have a double bypass operation.
He’d only found out he needed the damn thing a few days earlier after some disappointing test results so they’d flown down to Brisbane almost immediately so they could get to work. In fact, Kez said upon seeing the results his doctor in Cairns had left the room and booked in the surgery before coming back and telling him to pack his bag and why. So Daz had spent the last four days in hospital being prepped while Kerri was staying with my parents just down the road from there.
All that considered, I didn’t think my sister had decided this year she was going to help us win the family’s ‘who got in first’ Birthday Wishes Stakes with a pre—predawn call.
I couldn’t hear the other end of the conversation but Tracey’s responses were depressingly clear:
‘Oh, no’ and ‘Oh, Kerri’ and ‘Oh my god’ and ‘I’m so sorry’ and ‘He’s on his way’ all featured.
The call ended and Tracey’s eyes found mine.
“Not Daz,” I softly pleaded, finding my voice at last.
My sister is strong and wilful and determined and a force of nature….and very loud….and loving and enthusiastic, and absolutely besotted with her husband. And he with her. They are to each other what guitar strings are to that wooden instrument. Together they make beautiful music, but one without the other doesn’t make as much sense.
Already I was tearing up. Daz isn’t even fifty. His Mum died of a heart attack around this age, and a couple of other family members too. This was always a concern for him. For my sister’s sake every part of me begged Tracey not to say it.
And she didn’t.
“Your Dad,” she whispered as she gathered me into her arms and cried.
Grandad went to sleep on Monday night last week, in his own home, in his own bed, next to the woman he loves, and didn’t wake up. At 78 I don’t think there’s a better passing. It’s what I keep coming back around to when the emotions flood over me and I take a minute to feel sorry for myself. I consider myself lucky to have had him as my dad and I’m already missing him. Which is all exactly as it should be.
Raising a family on little more than laughs