my first memory of my dad was him coming home from the hospital after being sick with some life threatening disease. i don't remember him going to the hospital, but i remember i was scared of him when he came home because he had a beard. and even though i don't specifically remember him before he left for the hospital stay, i know he did not have a beard. i remember a few years of being pretty carefree as a kid after that, but when i was around seven years old, he became chronically ill once again. this lasted throughout my teen years. i remember his heart went into atrial fibrillation around thanksgiving one year...i think i was twelve. they couldn't get him out of a-fib and i thought he was going to die. they even used old school paddles on him when he was awake and alert, but it didn't do anything. then, on christmas morning that year, i remember him and my mom coming into my room, where i was hanging out with my brother waiting to go downstairs to open gifts. they told us his heart went back to its normal sinus rhythm. i didn't believe in god then and i still don't now, but that was a pretty powerful experience. when i went to college, he became seriously ill once again. he had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, among other things. he had to have his arm amputated at different points three different times. he got a staph infection that spread to a hairline fracture in his spine because the prednisone he was on weakened his bones and left them brittle. he needed a spinal fusion and was in horrendous pain. i dealt with his illeness by denying it. i pretended it didn't exist and i developed anger toward him. i spent all my time with friends, playing in alt-rock bands, smoking pot, and making everything think everything in my world was cool and i had a handle on things. one fall day -- a very beautiful fall day -- i met my girlfriend on campus in the student union accidentally. we started walking home and ran into a great friend i hadn't seen in a long time. it was a very nice encounter. i was in a great mood. we got into our apartment, which was the main floor of an old victorian house and the phone was ringing. it was my mom. i answered and she was crying. she said, "[dinkus], dad is dead." there was silence on her end. my world went numb and i remember feeling a vague pulsating feeling in the air around me. i don't remember the conversation after that. i don't remember the day after that. i don't remember how i got home to my parents' house. i don't remember feeling. i just remember thinking that the moment i had feared my whole life, since my earliest memory, had just come true and now i had to deal with it.