The morning began like every morning, with Hubs quietly bringing me my cup of coffee while I was still in bed.
But on this day, instead of putting my coffee on my nightstand and opening the curtains a bit, he gingerly sat on our bed. His presence felt heavy. Burdened.
And I knew. My sleepy, half-awake brain knew something was deeply, darkly wrong.
I bolted up in bed, startling him, causing him to almost spill the coffee he was about to offer me.
What is it? I spluttered, my words unclear, my mouth dry. Hubs was staring at me, eyes welling up. The unsettling sight caused my stomach to knot. I felt fear closing my throat. I heard labored breaths.
It’s your dad, he said. You have to call your mom.
He was going to say more, but I interrupted him, thinking I’d spare him the dreaded words: He’s dead. My dad’s dead.
His head shook no. He had a major stroke. But he’s alive. He held out the yellow mug. Here. Drink.
Shaking hands passed to shakier hands. Shakier hands held cup to lips.
I sipped, not tasting. My beloved morning coffee had no flavor.
But I drank. I drank that coffee, willing it to calm my nerves, restore some sanity, give me the strength to call my soon-to-be-widowed mother. And then I dialed.
Come home, she said. Get on a plane. We don’t know how long he has. Hurry.
Hanging up the phone, I viewed my room through murky eyes. Lead legs waded through thick air to the closet. Grab the suitcase. Pack dark clothes. Wear black. Find a sweater.
I opened a drawer and leaned on it for support, but gravity pulled my chest to the floor and my body shook with sobs.
My daddy’s dying. My daddy’s dying. I gasped, sobbed, heaved as I began to be swallowed up.
Hubs’ long, strong arms appeared and encircled me. His body tented over mine as he held off the dark fog so I could breathe.
The sobs began to subside. I felt air return to my lungs. I breathed deep and leaned on my love as he helped me to my feet. He pushed my hair out of my eyes and looked into them, infusing me with strength. We need to focus. We need to catch a plane, he said.
Yes, I said. We need to focus. We need to catch a plane. And I climbed in the shower, breathing deep, letting the hot water scald the remaining fog off my skin.