Editor’s Note: Instead of his regular column, Sharp Left Ahead, William chose to write a Between the Lines. To read Sharp Left Ahead, visit our website at thepost.ohiou.edu.
I woke up at Disney World, Orlando, Fla., to a fairly typical day — or as typical as it gets at Disney World for a sophomore in high school during spring break. I went to breakfast, made my Mickey Mouse waffles, and went to the bathroom. I remember being in a foul mood to begin with, and when I found I had no toilet paper, I thought to myself: “How could this day get any worse?”
I walked out of the bathroom to see my mother sitting on a rock, visibly upset. She sat me down and told me that my father had died.
As she hugged me, I was frozen; I did not think it was real. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t talk … I just sat for the one- to two-hour drive back to my grandma’s house. I honestly can’t remember getting in the car.
I had to tell someone, so I called my best friend. I don’t know how I got a word out, but somehow he understood me as the tears came flooding out.
We later found out he had suffered from a stroke and hit his head on a mantel on our second floor while we were down in Florida (he hadn’t gone with us because he didn’t enjoy travelling). It was most likely a quick death, they tell me, but I never found great comfort in such ideas.
In my mind, there was no need to take off time from school because I needed to get back to a familiar routine after the worst spring break of my life. One of the worst parts about coming home was telling people. I had no way of knowing if they had already heard the news or if they needed to be informed.
People have no clue how to act, and why should they? I didn’t know how to act, think or if I should even be around my friends. How could I expect them to know what to do when I didn’t know what to do? The problem caused a lot of anger that lasted almost a year and could have destroyed a friendship.
If you know people who have lost a family member, I suggest asking them about how they want to deal with the situation when friends are around. Some people want to ignore it, others just want to talk and still others are somewhere in between; you won’t know until you ask.
Events such as Dads Weekend at Ohio University bring these bad memories to the surface, but they are worth bringing up from time to time and are worth sharing.
Oddly, I have written about my dad’s death in previous articles and college applications. They generally focus on how wonderful a man he was, represented through his work for a non-profit organization to benefit the poor, his work as President of Students for a Democratic Society during the May 4 shootings in Kent, and his general love of people. I believe this is the first time I have written about how I felt, and feel, about it.
I like writing about him because he accomplished a lot in his life; I think this is a story worth knowing. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m starting my own story, which has the potential to inspire people.
For those of you dreading a visit from your dad this weekend, that’s okay. I would too if I were in your position. But maybe do something special for him.
I know it’s not always a manly thing to do, but let your father know that you love him.
William Hoffman is a freshman studying journalism and political science and a columnist for The Post. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.