I remember it clearly. I was sleeping in southern California. I'd been to a farmworker camp the day before and planned to discuss my moving experience with my father when I got back to Washington. Persistent ringing. Who in hell ...? It's 6:30 am! I was awake.
I had to go to the rectory ASAP. I was staying at a church facility in San Bernardino. Only nuns and priests would call me out of my slumber at six-effing-thirty. I was told to call home.
No answer. My wife was pregnant: had anything gone wrong? Because "wrong" was beginning to be the word rising up in my mind. Something was ... um ... askew. But it was six-effing-thirty, maybe 6:45 by then.
Called my mother-in-law. "Your father is dead."
The priest and a nun were looking at me as my face crumpled and I set down the phone. Everyone seemed to be speaking to me at once and I just ran out of the building and out to an avenue and lit a cigarette.
Nobody walks on sidewalks in California. Certainly not that early in the morning.
I returned, let me be sleepwalked to the airport and to an all-day cross-country odyssey to ... what? To confront the debris of my father's life, ended at 59 years of age and nearly 10 months. Five months older than my age today, 31 years later.