tales of loss – episode 5 – my father

I have been putting this off. There are only two episodes left and I guess I will end with the one that is harder to understand and just go for the really sad one now. Not like they aren’t all sad in some way. And I did promise to write more this week and not just the Tuesday posts. I am procrastinating writing this now. Warning: this is sad.

***

I loved my father with all that I had.

My parents were divorced when I was still a toddler and due to the custody agreement and my mother and father living in different states, I didn’t get to see my father anywhere near as much as I would have liked. We had 2 weeks over the summer and one holiday together each year. My brother and I dealt with it. That was just how things were.

My dad used to call all the time. Eventually it became a weekly thing. Then not every week.

We saw each other every year for the summer and the one holiday for a while. Then it stopped.

I was about 10 or 11. I remember that last visit. My mother was pissed that she had to drive to the further airport to drop us off (my dad paid for the flight and I think it was cheaper) and she said that if he didn’t use a closer airport in the future, she wouldn’t let us go again. I know now that she was just mad and it wasn’t her fault that we didn’t fly there again, but it was one hell of a coincidence.

I don’t really know what happened. Life I guess. I know things were hard and my dad had his problems (alcohol, depression, bankruptcy, etc) but I know he tried. Things just got in the way. I never blamed him and I still don’t, I want to make that 100% clear. I never blamed my father and I never stopped loving him.

Eventually the calls stopped and the visits too.

We had so much fun growing up and we used to maximize the time that we spent together. Only now as an adult do I realize how my dad must have used his entire vacation time from work for our visits and how much they cost. We went everywhere. It wouldn’t have mattered to me no matter what we did, I just wanted to be with him.

He kept everything we ever made for him or mailed him, including the empty box we sent him once. It was filled with packing peanuts and nothing else.

Totally aging myself here but the internet became a thing that everyone had and everyone got email addresses in middle and high school. My dad started emailing me again and I was thrilled. He was afraid that I wouldn’t want to talk to him but I never stopped wanting to talk to him. I wanted to live with him and get away from my mother but that was never something that could happen.

He asked if he could call again. I didn’t hesitate. Yes. All of the yes.

We had little sayings that he made up when I was a kid and some that he took from other places. I won’t say them here but I remember all of them and I frequently think of them.

He used to sing me to sleep. He made me a tape of him singing at one point. I still kick myself for losing that tape.

When I was 17 he asked to see me. I was thrilled. Yes. 1,000,000 times yes.

We went to a restaurant by a graveyard, I won’t say the name of the place. My brother in a different city (he was in college at this point) also took my dad to a place by a graveyard. What was it with us and graveyards?

I wish that didn’t have meaning.

My dad gave me earrings wrapped in an article he thought I would like. He always used newspaper to wrap gifts. It was comics as a kid, then interesting articles as we got older.

I had a great time. That was the last time I saw him.

He started calling again and we emailed all the time. I couldn’t have been happier.

That Thanksgiving he left a message on the answering machine. We always had dinner at my aunt’s house. He knew that but didn’t want to miss the holiday. He said he loved us and hoped we had a great day and he would call the next day.

The next day I went to work. I was writing obituaries for the local paper.

I wish that didn’t have meaning.

Later that night, I was sitting on the couch with my brother who was visiting from college. We were watching TV and laughing about something. I don’t remember what we were laughing about, just that we were laughing. The phone rang. He was next to it and picked up. I heard a jumbled conversation that started with him sounding happy and then his voice changed. I knew something was wrong. He hung up the phone and put his head down on the couch. I asked him what was wrong and he wouldn’t talk so I asked again and felt a sense of impending dread and held back crying.

“Rich, what is it?” – me

“It’s dad”

“Is he ok?”

“No”

I knew then that my father had died. I broke down. I was on AIM in the other room and the sound went off, not sure how much later. I went to the computer and exited. I didn’t stop crying. My mother wasn’t home, she was at her boyfriend’s house. I heard my brother calling her and said “dad’s dead.” That was the first time I heard those words.

He was walking across the street and was hit by a car. The paper said he was flung 25 feet. He died several hours later in the hospital. I don’t know why I read the article, but I did. He was about 2 hours away. We could have made it there. I still wish I had been called when it happened so I could have gotten there. I often wonder if it would have made a difference. If I could have done something. If my presence would have made him fight harder. I blame myself a lot. But I also blame the driver. The drive who had a drink and got in their car and thought they were fine and didn’t stop in time. I want the BAC limit to be 0.04 or less.

I was 17.

I didn’t know how to handle it, no one did. My friends tried. My family disappeared. I didn’t go to the funeral, I couldn’t. It hurt too much and I didn’t know that side of the family. After the divorce I hardly saw them and only had fleeting flashes of memories of most of them.

They took that wrong. No one reached out to me at all. Instead, they pretty much disowned me. I didn’t see them until after grad school when both my grandparents had passed. It is still strained.

It has been over 13 years since I lost my father and it still hurts so bad I can hardly stand it.

I have a memorial tattoo for him. It is a puzzle piece since we used to do puzzles together and when he died he took a piece of me with him. That is his piece.

I never do anything on the day he died. It is his day.

I have always had insomnia but it got a lot worse after he died. I think it was all the emotions. Him singing me to sleep was sometimes the only way I was able to fall asleep. And now that is gone.

I have one recording of him singing. I remastered it. I listen to it every year on the day he died and wish I had more. Really, I wish he wasn’t gone.

Sometimes I dream that it was all made up and he didn’t die and is still around. Then I wake up to the reality and it tortures me. I keep hoping that it was all fake. But it wasn’t. It happened. He is gone.

There are so many things that he missed out on and continues to miss. Each time there is something I want to share with him it hurts more. You think of some of the milestones and process them early on but you forget how many more there are. You forget how you will hear a song you know they would love or read a book that would be right up their alley and can’t share it. There are so many things.

Y’all might think I am nuts, but I do feel his presence. When I really need him, I feel like he is there. I feel him hug me sometimes. Sometimes he is just in the room. I feel him there at random times as well. Like he is letting me know that he isn’t missing out and is still there for me.

I miss him.

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