Jonathan Mazzacavallo is a graduate of Maine West High School. He is currently majoring in operations management and information systems at NIU. His interests include music and computers. Jonathan’s essay is important to him because he says it is “about an important and influential time in my life.”
The needle on the speedometer bounced off the speed governor as I raced down I-55 to the hospice at a nerve-wracking one hundred thirty miles per hour. At this point, the speed of light wouldn’t be fast enough for me. I hadn’t put much thought into whether I wanted to be there when my dad passed away, but now I was thinking I wanted to. When I got there, it was dark. My stepmom appeared as an emotionless silhouette in the desolate parking lot. I saw my little brothers playing outside in the frigid December weather. They were nested on top of a snow mound, busy with being too young to fully comprehend what was about to happen. My stepmom stood motionless, with a cigarette in hand, peering out into the vast expanse of darkness just beyond the lifeless lights of the parking lot. She hadn’t worked up the strength or willpower to bring her cigarette up to her lips and inhale yet.
This would be the first and the last time I was going to be in this building. My stepmom showed me around. In addition to the occupants’ rooms, there were dining and family rooms that were both decorated in rich, warm wood tones. A wood burning fireplace was surrounded by a mannequin-like family that stared into the red and yellow flashes of flame. It was the most comforting place I had ever been. We made our way into my dad’s room.
He lay in his bed almost motionless, wheezing. As I walked up to the bed, he became resltess. At this point, I knew I wanted to be there when he passed, for him. He slowly reached for my hand and said, “Goodnight, Jon. I love you.” The situation became too much for me. I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.
I saw my life with my father flash before my eyes: the long car rides from my mom’s house to his; his black pickup truck pulling into my driveway. Dressed in his work uniform, he would come to the door where I met him, a child eager to jump into his arms. It had always been about two weeks since I last saw him. I could vividly recall the aroma of an air freshener, grime, grease, and oil that mixed together to make the familiar smell of his truck. The knowledge we shared on those rides to my weekend home was priceless. He taught me about trucks and important life lessons. In return, I reminded him of his childhood with my stories, problems in school, and my increasing interest in music. He seemed to have all the answers to my questions. This routine became necessary in my life, just as it did for him. I loved every minute of it.
His hand fell limply out of my grasp. I gave him the space he needed. I must’ve sat on the couch waiting for the end in complete silence for hours. Every now and then, my dad would shift in his bed to ease his pain. It was like he was waiting for something. I decided to leave. I still don’t know why. It was late, and the fog was so thick, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.
Fifteen minutes after getting on the road, my phone rang. The vibration shot down my leg, but I wasn’t sure if I should answer it. Finally, on the last ring, I picked it up. My stepmom’s whimper came out over the phone. I didn’t need to hear any more. My car rolled to a stop on the shoulder of I-55. I was in another world. Cars zoomed by. I sat thinking, no tears, no words. I was wondering what came next. What is going to happen to my stepmom and my brothers? What do I do; where do I go from here? As suddenly as those thoughts began, my frenzy of questions came to a halt. I realized this was it, the last thing my dad would ever teach me: how to live without him.