Dad and I had talked 78 minutes. We talked about my trip and each of our health, the dogs and the new fence, and we updated each other on everything that life was like at the moment. And I wasn’t angry with him. I’d called three times now, and I all three times I was very angry with him. It was his fault my sister had died, I kept thinking. It was because of this that I didn’t call him right after it happened. If I had, I’d have apologized today, and that would have been awful. Anyway, he didn’t answer any of those three times. Talknig to him now, he’s had as a rougher time than anyone. Says he can’t sleep, but he’s having happy dreams. It’s just that he wakes every hour or so some nights. He got a prescription, so those nights he takes a Xanax. One of my sister’s favorite drugs. My dead sister. The drug I always kept around but never enjoyed enough to take recreationally. I hated the feeling of coming off of Xanax the next day. Flexaril was much better and had the same effects for me.
I told him the dreams I’d been having. Dreams that are so intense and real that they seem to have lasted all night, at least, if that hadn’t actually happened in real life. And they couldn’t have. In my dreams it was sunny, but I know that outside it was just a cold dark night like every winter night here in the mountains. I would sit with someone, someone I can’t remember, and I would talk about Lida. I don’t remember if they would talk or just me. Then I would cry. Really cry, like I don’t think I’ve ever cried in my entire life, convulsively balling and tears streaming endlessly. It felt amazing, like I was letting myself be someone I’ve never been able to accept.
I’m not a crier. I don’t think I’ve ever been. Even with bones and tendons and torn flesh sticking out, a split open chin or broken teeth, my eyes don’t even tear up. Ending an amazing relationship many years long brought only a couple of streams of tears on different days, and these only a tear or two long.
This lack of crying has always made me wonder about myself. Is there something wrong with me? Am I a bad person because I don’t cry? I didn’t cry at all when Toni told me. “No! What? No!” was my response. Then a long silence on my end while her screeching and sobbing filled the temporal space in our conversation. I began to wonder how it might be affecting the rest of my family. My thoughts shot to the one person it would affect most. “Oh god. Does mom know?”
I’m not a nurturer. I’ve never considered myself to have great empathy for the people around me. My strongest empathy is for my family, and even that comes and goes. But I’m strong. I have a way of accepting and moving on, instantly. It’s a weird gift, and although I naturally wonder if I’m “bottling my emotions”, I’ve never found a way to let them out. So I proceed, by checking in on everyone else. I called Mom, and then I called Dad. You know, he didn’t answer. I left him a message though, and as soon as I started to speak I felt some empathy. I just said, “I love you Dad, and that is all I need to say.”
I was on the bus from Tahachapi to Bakersfield when I first started to cry. It hit me hard. It was a simple peaceful sadness and I cried at the senselessness of it all. Immense loss filled me.
I woke up from my soggy dream dream exhausted, and it happened the next night too. Both days I got up at 6:45 am and went to work. Girly Girl was there. I was exhausted. It was yet another strain on our relations.
“Dad, there was one more thing that I wanted to ask you. This might be kind of morbid, but what was it like when you found her?” It was so god awful and normal that I can only recount it matter of fact, because I know him and I know her and I know the place where she was. I know the way she leaves the lights on and her dogs in their cage, and the way she passes out fully clothed. Such was the case on this particular Sunday.
My Dad had called and texted the day before and she’d not answered. It had snowed. He knew he’d need to come home to check on the dogs and when he got home from his girlfriends he let them out of their kennel and put them outside. She was passed out, bent over the bed, as he’d seen her once before. As I write this I can smell the familiar sent of fresh urine on old newspapers lining the bottom of their cage. I don’t call it a kennel because a well-trained dog likes to be in its kennel. Aster and Bodie despise it.
“Damnit Lida, why’d you leave the light on?” He turned off the bathroom light and went out to shovel the drive way. He got halfway done and came back in to take a break. He walked in, her bedroom door still open, and I’m assuming her light still on. He picked up the little baggy of “street drugs” off her waist-high bed. One white pill lay out on the bed and he put it back in the bag and put the bag in his pocket. He’d done exactly this with a small baggy of brown heroine sometime prior. He talked to her, saying something I can’t remember. Probably asking what the pills were and reprimanding her. Expecting her to wake up as he looked over her. But you already know that she didn’t wake up. She didn’t move at all, and my Dad put his hand on her cold back.
What would you do? I can see myself finding her. I slide to my knees and hug her however I can. She’s wearing jeans and I press my head against her leg and cry. I squeeze her and she is hard. Then I turn and just sit, leaned back against the bed. In this version my Dad comes in next and I just sitther on the floor crying. She died while I still lived there. While we all lived there together, doing that funny thing called family life that isn’t like anybody else’s.
“What did you do?” he asked her. He said a prayer, asking God to watch over her. He brushed her hair back and saw the deep purple of her left cheek. She had died face down with her phone in her hand. Her finges were pointed in the position that you make when you die. When I heard this I began to wonder if she was calling for help. I liked that version for some reason.
He put the drugs back on the bed. He called 911 and as he told me the next part we laughed together. There are, it turns out, a lot of ridiculous things about people dying. 911 asked my Dad to turn her over and give her CPR. He repeated that she was cold. And stiff. If he turned her over her legs would stick up in the air, he told them. After all, she had died bent over at the waist a whole day prior. Not that he knew this, or that anybody really knows, but that’s the way it seems.
The emergency crew arrived with a fire truck and ambulance, only to declare her dead. Then the police came. The emergency crews did something in the bedroom that sounded like jumping and then brought her out straightened. Meanwhile my dad was confined to the couch where the police asked him the same questions different ways. “They treated it like a crime scene,” he said. And I don’t blame them. This thing smacks of foul play. Who opens up a bag of pills, pops one in their mouth, lays an extra one on the bed, lays the baggie down next to the extra pill, and then just croaks? Who lays expensive and difficult to obtain oxycodone pills out on their bed, anyway? “I’m glad she died at home,” my Dad said. She didn’t, Dad.
I called Mom to test my theory on her. She didn’t buy it. She said Lida had done similar things before, and she was right. But in the end she belied her truth: it was hurting her to do anything but let it go, and finding that someone else might have played a role in Lida’s death was anything but letting it go.