I hit publish on my last post and two seconds later the phone rang. My sister notably upset on the other end said, "we're coming to pick you up," and I of course immediately demanded to know what was going on.
"Pete coded and we need to go to the hospital. I don't know if he's gone, but we need to go say goodbye."
Never in my life have I tornadoed through my bedroom so fast. Sobbing, I threw on a bra, a pair of jeans, my shoes and my unbathed ass was out the door in literally two minutes, sprinting through the once again falling snow and ice to the car and driving erratically down the highway to the hospital.
By the time I got there, he was gone. I was greeted by a room of my red rimmed eyed family and my beloved uncle lying motionless on a hospital bed, a tube sticking out of his mouth and his coloring just starting to fade to gray. I promptly sucked in a breath, turned and walked out of the room, holding back the gagging and vomit rising in my throat.
Apparently he just fell over in the snowy yard while feeding the birds and while he wasn't in the greatest of health, it still wasn't something anybody can possibly be prepared for. And now his cut up clothing, brown loafers and braided leather belt are shoved in plastic bags and placed on a chair, and my sister is taking his gold wedding band off his finger for my aunt and we're talking about the options of a military funeral — Taps and a 21-gun salute — and in the midst of it all I stop and stare at the pictorial ceiling tile in the ER room riddled with kitty cats, clouds, strings of pearls and long stemmed roses and laugh silently because Uncle Pete would have thought it was ridiculous. Later on, we all laughed out loud when we noted how pissed off he probably was that we were all putting him on display, staring at him and talking about him.
My heart is broken. I've loved and lost, but this is the biggest love I've ever lost so far. I've always thought that one of the reasons I have such a hard time dating and the reason why I don't just settle for some douchebag is because I know there are good men in the world. Uncle Pete was at the top of my good man charts — second only to my own father. Those little boys in the dating world have no idea what huge shoes they have to fill to be a part of my life. Our relationship was special in that he took on a grandfather role with me from the day I was born.
He was strong, yet gentle; stoic, yet kind. He never complained and his work ethic was one I've never seen before in any other person. He always put others before himself and spent a lifetime devoted to his family and the United States Marine Corps. He was by far the most generous and giving human being and he always left me with these sentiments: "Stay out of trouble" and "Anything you need, you just ask." He was constantly rooting for me, always saying, "You can do this, Lara," and I'll never forget it.
What I just can't deal with is the state my aunt is in — sobbing and clutching his driver's license to her chest and saying, "I just can't believe Pete is dead." Sure, I'm distraught, but my aunt's entire world was shattered today and there's just nothing we can do to make it better besides hold her hand, be there to help her make decisions and try to guide her through this suddenly unfamiliar world of a life without Pete.
I stroked his hair that he was so particular about and said goodbye one last time. We lost our rock, our Pete, today. One of my greatest cheerleaders and an integral piece of my support system is gone and I'm so very sad. I just don't know what else to do except remember and cry...so I guess I'll do that.
I love you and miss you dearly.