Entropy: Everything Falls Apart.


My phone rings and I know it’s bad news. My sister’s calling and it’s right after midnight. She’s usually in bed by ten.


“I need you to get somewhere quiet.”

I start to walk out into the hallway as she repeats “I need you to get somewhere quiet”, adding an urgent “right now” to the end of her statement and I sink inside, my stomach succumbing to the quicksand that has appeared in my gut. I’m walking, I’m moving, and I’m mostly sober, but I’m still not fast enough. I leave the apartment, close the door behind me, and I stand in the hallway. I tell her “Okay”, giving her the go-ahead to change my life forever.

“Your dad stopped breathing.”

I lose myself immediately. I shake and I cry and I say something exclamatory, what, or why, or something like that but suddenly, I forget that I’m saying anything. The paramedics are there and they’re trying to resuscitate him. I hang up and I’m on the carpet, footing lost, face on the floor, phone still in my hand. I sob and every time my rib cage contracts, I feel as if I’m being physically crushed, an egg in a fist, yolk leaking through the space between fingers and shell shattering. Inside, I hear Melissa. “Is Amber crying or laughing out there?” I stand on shaky legs and I walk. Inside. Left foot. Right foot. This should be easy. But it’s not.

I walk inside, door closes behind me and I open my mouth but I don’t feel the words in my throat as I start to talk.

“My dad stopped breathing.”

Gray’s there and he hugs me and someone says something. I respond. They say “sit down” and I do as I’m told, everyone directing me. We’re going. Where? No one knows. I call my sister back and I ask and she tells me. “They’re taking him to Macomb County Hospital.”

The drive seems to simultaneously take all the time in the world and no time at all, music intermittently interrupted by phone calls and we’re 18 miles away when Sara tells me “Amber… It doesn’t look good.” Inside, I’m dying, shellshocked and sad and the sickeningly hopeful idea that everything will be alright doesn’t even occur to me. All I can think of is the night, seven years prior, when my dad’s older brother died. Fifty-five. Massive heart attack. I was asleep on the couch at my dad’s house, a directionless college kid clad in a Radiohead tee shirt when the phone rings. Eyes open and I look at the clock. It’s past four. “Hello?” My dad answers, sleep audible in his voice before he screams. “No. No, no, no!” Tom Valentine was with his wife. They were eating popcorn. He stood up then fell down, a valve in his heart explodes and he’s dead instantly. I do the math in my brain and it takes so long – Fifty… One. Two? No, one. My dad was fifty-one. Four years younger than his brother. And that… It was hereditary. I remember that much.

Gray and Melissa drop me off at the entrance to the emergency room. Justin’s with me. My phone rings again. “Where are you?” “I’m here. I’m at the emergency room. I’m walking in.” I’m in the hospital, white tiles glowing in florescence and I round the corner, seeing my sister as she says on the phone “Your dad’s dead.”

Moments begin to blur and the fact that only two hours prior, I was sitting at Gray and Melissa’s table, beer in hand, the optimism of hope and flirtation burning inside my chest, is left behind. That? That’s not my life. That’s some other girl’s life, some happy, bright, smiling girl who consistently believes the best in everyone, everything. That girl? She’s not me. That girl? I think she died that night, too.

My dad’s on a gurney in the trauma center, curtain closed around, and Sara leads me in. I look back at Justin momentarily as I walk away and I think maybe I should tell him not to leave? That I’ll be right back? Before I vocalize that, I realize how stupid it is. Everything in my brain is stupid.

I walk inside, past the curtain, and see him laying there. I want to say “Dad, I’m here.” before I realize… I’m here. But he isn’t. His wife, newlywed, sits beside him, stroking his face inconsolably and she doesn’t look up. She doesn’t even notice I walked in. My eyes are wide and wet and I look at my dad, blanket pulled up to his neck, arms limp at his sides, plastic tube sticking out of his mouth, front teeth barely exposed, one eye slightly opened. Suddenly, the person I went out to lunch with only five days earlier is erased in my mind, replaced by splotched skin and lifeless limbs. He’s already going into rigor-mortis.

I float between the waiting room and the back. My nephew’s here. My friends. Eventually, my grandma and uncle arrive. In the waiting room, I ask Justin if I should be calling people. He tells me I don’t have to do anything and I realize that, while he’s right, he doesn’t know. He barely knows me. We just met. Why am I defaulting to him? Because I can’t do it on my own.

Laura comes out to the waiting room, unable to walk on her own. She’s lead by her daughter and she stumbles, grabs the wall. I feel bad for myself but my heart deflates for Laura. Yesterday, she was talking about the future. Last week, she was in Ann Arbor, showing me wedding pictures over Indian food. Five weeks ago, she was on her honeymoon. Six weeks ago, she’d just gotten married. And already – A widow. She takes me in back with her to sit with my dad and she holds me and all I can say is “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” Those words become a prayer, a mantra, and I repeat them as if saying I don’t know what to do will suddenly make me realize what I need to be doing. But it never helps.

Laura leaves me alone with my dad and there’s a puncture on his hand, so fresh it’s still bleeding. My chin trembles and my eyes turn bloodshot and red.

“Hi, dad. I’m here.” I talk in between deep breaths and sobs. I don’t know what to say but I talk anyhow. “I don’t understand. I’m here but you’re not and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I know I was a handful sometimes.” I laugh at the words and I look at his hand, a small spot of blood gathering and I touch it. It expands on his skin and he’s already cold. “I know I’m stupid but you’re bleeding and I don’t understand why you’re bleeding but you’re not alive. You can’t not be here.”

I talk more and I realize that nothing will ever be the same. The text message banter I exchange with my dad daily is a memory. I’ll never get to bring a boy to him for parental approval. I’ll never be walked down the aisle by my dad at my wedding. I look at him and the white of his right eye is yellowing and I feel my insides shudder.

“I don’t want to leave.” I squeak out, my throat tightened, voice barely audible. “But I know you’re not really here so I have to.”

I feel as if I’m lead by a leash, no direction of my own unless I’m tugged, and I shake, fingertips trembling as I look at my hand and I realize that the ring on my right hand my dad bought me only five days prior. Five days. He’d come out for lunch and I’d told him not to, it was too snowy, it wasn’t safe. He didn’t listen – He never listens! – and I breath deeply, relieved for his stubbornness although that sense of relief is quickly killed off when I realize that I had meant to go visit him at work earlier that day but elected to hang out with Matt and Bri instead. The regret is too much for me to bare and I collapse on to someone – Laura? Gray? Justin? Everyone blurs together and they ask me what I’m doing.


“Do you want to come home with the family or go home with your friends?”

Everyone offers me choices, places to go, and I look wildly from person to person.

“I don’t know what to do.”

I don’t know what to do.


6 Responses to “Entropy: Everything Falls Apart.”

  1. Rainne Says:

    Oh, honey. My heart is breaking.

  2. Laura Valentine Says:

    This is beautiful Amber. I try to figure out what to do, I ask it constantly…….what do I do? I don’t know what to do?! I want someone to take over and make it easier so I wont hurt.
    When we came to see you this week in all the snow, we were determined that we going to visit, as your dad and I rarely get a day off together, so it was important to spend it seeing family…….you, my darling, are family. You must honor your father in all you do, because he loved you unconditionally and without reservation. I must do the same for my husband, my friend, my lover and soul mate. He wants us to be strong women who can persevere despite this crushing blow. You are part of him….he is part of you, relish and enjoy this knowledge. My Mr. Valentine was one of a kind and set the bar for how I will forever be treated now.

  3. Deanna Price Says:

    What a beautiful write up, my heart hurts for you honey. Find strenght in the people who very dearly love him.

  4. […] “Well, at least it can’t get much worse…” only to be confronted with the death of my dad, which is a lot like living in a world where superheroes are real and finding out that […]

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