Still miss­ing ‘birth­day buddy’

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - Feature - Da­van­dra Babb

by da­van­[email protected] na­tion­

Five years ago to­day, Orissa Cal­len­der lost her fa­ther Michael Cal­len­der, her best friend. He was 46.

Then 17, she was fac­ing the hardest mo­ment in her life. And she is yet to get past it.

Tak­ing a break from her job yesterday to speak to the Week­end Na­tion, the young chef re­counted the day her dad took se­ri­ously ill.

Bad po­si­tion

“My dad had two strokes. One on the Sun­day and one on Tues­day. The first one he had, he could still speak but he couldn’t move his left side,” she said.

“The sec­ond one, he couldn’t speak at all. You could lit­er­ally see the blood on his brain on the front of his fore­head.”

“When we saw my dad he was in a very bad po­si­tion. He wasn’t speak­ing at that point and he had messed him­self. Me and my sis­ter were cry­ing and the en­tire fam­ily was shaken up,” she re­called.

Cal­len­der said she spent two straight days at Bayview Hos­pi­tal with her fa­ther be­fore he was moved to the Queen Elizabeth Hos­pi­tal.

“He was try­ing hard to speak to my sis­ter and I but he couldn’t get it done,” she re­called.

“The doc­tor said he had 90 per cent chance of liv­ing and they didn’t want to op­er­ate on him. They didn’t hook him up to the ma­chine be­cause they wanted him to breathe on his own. That didn’t hap­pen. By the Satur­day, he was gone at 6:05 a.m.”

Paus­ing to take a breath, Cal­len­der said when she re­ceived the news of her fa­ther’s pass­ing it hit her like a brick and she was in com­plete dis­be­lief.

“I called the fam­ily and I went straight to the hos­pi­tal. I was in dis­be­lief. I made sure to go to the hos­pi­tal to be sure that it was re­ally him they meant. But when I touched his body, it was cold. My sis­ter and my mum ar­rived a few min­utes later and my sis­ter couldn’t han­dle it. She was more messed up than I was. When the rest of the fam­ily ar­rived they were also very dis­traught and up­set,” she said.

The now 22-year-old said it was es­pe­cially hard for her since her dad passed two weeks be­fore her birth­day, on De­cem­ber 18.


“I could re­mem­ber ev­ery day I would be at the hos­pi­tal read­ing to him and telling him about how my birth­day was com­ing up and he has to make it out for my birth­day. So it was re­ally hard for me, be­cause he passed be­fore my birth­day and around Christ­mas, which is a time for fam­ily,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes.

Cal­len­der, who spoke lov­ingly about her fa­ther all through­out the in­ter­view, said al­though he wasn’t a “Christ­mas per­son”, he made sure to come around ev­ery birth­day to be with her.

“We were best friends. Ev­ery year for my birth­day he would make sure he come and see me, talk, laugh – he would just do the most.

“My six­teenth birth­day was the best I ever had, and my fa­ther made it the best,” she said with a laugh.

Cal­len­der said she has not cel­e­brated her birth­day since her dad’s pass­ing but planned on do­ing some­thing this year.

“I haven’t moved past it as yet. I’m a per­son that is al­ways laugh­ing. So I do that to keep my mind off of it. But when I’m alone it’s re­ally hard, but I try to keep ac­tive.”

She added that as re­cent as Wed­nes­day, she broke down in tears think­ing about him.

“Some peo­ple at work were talk­ing about strokes and then it hit me re­ally hard. I had to stop what I was do­ing and get my­self to­gether.

“I have great me­mories with him. He was al­ways mak­ing me laugh. When I’m go­ing through times, I have a book at home that I write let­ters to him in,” she added.

Cal­len­der de­scribed her fa­ther as the life of the party and one who could never be re­placed.

“My dad was the life of the fam­ily. He was funny, talked a lot of non­sense and made ev­ery­one laugh.

“We still talk about him but we don’t talk about any bad times; we just talk about all the good times that we had with him and all the times he made us laugh and so on,” she said.

And on the an­niver­sary of Michael’s death, Cal­len­der said if she could have a con­ver­sa­tion with him, it would be to tell him how much she misses him and ask why he left her and her sis­ter so early.

(Pic­ture by Christoff Grif­fith.)

Chef Orissa Cal­len­der says pour­ing her­self into her work helps her to keep her mind off her dad.


Orissa and her dad Michael Cal­len­der at her grad­u­a­tion.

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