Still missing ‘birthday buddy’
by davan[email protected] nationnews.com
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.
“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.
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.