My dad slapped me on the shoulder as he headed upstairs for the night. I reached over, picked up the remote start changing channels on the TV.
"What the... " I shouted, startled at sound behind me. I turned around and saw dad sprawled on the stairs, and quickly rushed over to him. My recent work while getting my First Aid Merit Badge involved learning CPR on an adult and a child.
I hoped it was safe for me to do anything for him.
"Dad, can you hear me?" I said loudly, as I checked his mouth to clear his airway
I yelled, "Come on Dad ... start breathing dammit," and there was no response.
I put my hands in the center of his chest and started a rhythm of 16 compressions every 10 seconds... "One ... two ... three ... four ... one ... two ... three ... four ... one ... two ... three ... four ... one ... two ... three ... four... MOM! "One ... two ... three ... four ... one ... two ... three ... four ... one...
"Why are you yelling ... OH MY GOD ... Joseph ... Keep doing what you're doing ... I'll call 911," She said.
Thirty minutes after the EMTs showed up ... they were zipping dad up in a body bag.
I didn't want them to take my dad's body from me. I loved my dad. He was who insisted our troop get lifesaving training... AND I COULDN'T SAVE HIM!
I'm 13 years old—strong enough to have saved him ... my sister and my mother were holding each as I followed the EMTs to their ambulance.
"I followed the proper procedure, why did he die?" I asked them.
"You did all you could, young man," the one EMT said to me.
We got a letter from the hospital explaining that he died from something called an 'myocardial infarction' which is 'hospitalese' for heart attack. He was only 43.
His name was ... is ... was Joseph. We are the Bradley's ... Joseph (43), Mary (37), Jo Junior (13, that's me) and my older sister Kaitlyn (16).
The day that this all happened was July 3rd, 2010.
Fortunately, we were pretty well-off when you add in his job insurance, (yeah ... I didn't know there was such a thing either) and the multiple life insurances that 'would come in handy, someday' as dad always was saying.
Mom worked, and stayed working, probably because staying home would drive her crazy.
I've been brooding for the last three years, wondering what I could have done to save my father. Whenever Kaitlyn and I saw each other, we would hug and comfort each other. And cry, boy would we cry.
I remember how he would always say to me, 'Don't cry Joe, it makes you look weak—and you don't want anyone to know that you're weak.'
One thing we had constantly done together was watch TV comedies together. He would sit down on the sofa, I would sit down on the floor in front of him, and we would laugh, whether it was old 'I Love Lucy' or 'Home Improvement' or the 'Nanny.' Fran made us laugh so hard, we were crying.
Lately, there wasn't much we liked on the networks, so we would 'Netflix' some great old TV Comedies he had grown with.
I heard someone on the stairs ... it was Kaitlyn. I asked her to sit and watch TV with me. She sat in the sofa like dad did. I sat in front of her, holding onto her legs like I used to do with dad. She would run her hands through my thick shock of brown hair using her fingernails, which I enjoyed.
It was getting pretty long; I hadn't cut my hair since dad died. Mom would occasionally say something about it, but I told her that I wasn't ready to have my hair cut. Kaitlyn would say the same thing to me, but she didn't make as big a deal about it. She would tell me that she wished her hair were as thick as mine. We had the same hair and eye color. Although younger than her, I was now taller than her.
I was about to turn 16 ... she had turned 19. I asked her if she would help me practice driving, and she surprised me by saying 'yes.'
That began a regular routine for us, every Monday and Thursday, after her short college schedule, we would go to the nearby church with its big parking lot. She would move over, and I would get in the drivers seat.
She taught me all the things to do before you even put the key in the ignition. She made it fun, like dad would have. After a few weeks of this, she said that I was ready. A month later, on my birthday, we took her car and after acing the written test, I passed the driving test ... and got my license!
She let me drive us home. She even scooted over next to me, leaning on my shoulder. I was too afraid of taking a hand off the wheel to comfort her. Dad had taught her how to drive, and we both had expected him to teach me too.
.... There is more of this story ...
Tear Jerker /