Life without daddy...
Tomorrow morning I will wake up, and it will be exactly 5 years since my father died.
Yesterday afternoon as I left the gym, it was five years to the minute that I had walked from the gym through the tunnel to the hospital across the street and talked to my dad for the very last time. I didn’t know he was getting ready to die. He was undergoing his second round of chemotherapy after having the leukemia suddenly decide that remission was boring.
A few years prior to that, he discovered (by accident) [well, the doctors doing the tests discovered – I just say “by accident” because he just went in for a physical even though he felt fine] that he had leukemia. The doctors gave him a “new” (that sounds like “experimental”) chemotherapy treatment. (In other words, they were guessing – and wrong at that!) It didn’t quite take care of all the bad stuff. So they gave him a second round. That wiped him out. He told me that dying of leukemia would have been much more acceptable. However, after all the sickness passed (after a stay in the hospital four times as long as expected) and the home nurses were through, the doctors declared him to be fit. He had lost a lot of weight, felt pretty darn good, and the next few years were spent enjoying life.
Then in July of 2001 it came back – with a vengeance. I was getting ready to do a cross-country drive out to Death Valley in August, and I asked him if he wanted me to stay. Silly me! Of course he said no. My biggest regret EVER is not cancelling that trip and getting a few extra days with him. A few days when he was not shivering and in agonizing pain – his state when I returned from my trip.
So 5 years ago yesterday I told him I would be back in a couple of days, and for his wife to call me if he needed anything. He felt really bad so I didn’t stick around long. So it was quite a shock when his wife called me up that Sunday morning and said that he was gone. At first I though she meant he had sneaked out of the hospital and she was blaming me for helping him!
As I was growing up, I watched my dad go from a 60’s boulevardier to a far right “Spotlight” reader and then back a little to just left of far right. But he was also a very smart man – the smartest I have ever known – and could listen to your arguments against him and see your point. At least as long as you were able to do so lucidly and with proper grammar. Our debates were fun. “I can’t believe that you actually tell people you voted for Clinton” he would say derisively. I wonder what he would think of the current regime. I know he would have some issues with W. W is not a thing like his dad. My dad liked George H. He flew in the Navy and was shot down. He liked John McCain (who flew in the Navy and got shot down). My dad flew in the Navy (I have his flight log right here!), but he didn’t get shot down. I guess that makes him better than they! Anyway, I don’t think he’d like W. He was a Reagan man!
His crazy wife waited forever to have the funeral. She’s weird. She threw out a bunch of his stuff and then told me about it later. “Well I didn’t think you wanted it because you aren’t sentimental” she said. Who the fuck are you, bitch! He was my fucking dad!!!! I don’t talk to her very much. I knew her daughter before she met my dad. Her daughter was a freak. Not to far from the tree, as they say. She was a party girl, for sure. She even used to bang (to use the vernacular) several of my buddies. I was at my dad’s fixing his computer many years ago and he said “Laura went and got herself got knocked up!” Crusty, old guy slang for pregnant. I was waiting for him to use the word “simoleon” next. He and his wife raised that child (because she wasn’t balanced enough) and then when she went on a tearing, drug induced rampage my dad really wanted his wife to have her committed so they could adopt him. She wouldn’t do it, so they raised him anyway but without parental rights. What a stupid bitch (his wife/her mom). She committed suicide last year. Not his wife… My dad really loved him, though. And had my father lived, the boy would have been much better off for it now. But now the kid is a freak because his mother had control of him for 4 years without my dad’s influence.
So anyway she (his wife) had him (my dad) cremated and we had the funeral and she dumped his ashes in the woods he loved so much. That was September 10th. The next day, well… you know what happened. I used to joke with my friends that the terrorists knew that everything was clear, since we had just buried my dad. But it was tough. My “go-to” guy was no longer there. I wanted to find out what his take was on everything, and couldn’t. I still find myself thinking about something and telling myself that I need to call my dad and get his take on it…
My other regret is that I didn’t get my pilot’s license while he was alive. He took me flying when I was a child. The first plane I ever flew in was a Beech D-18. I was 4. I thought it was so cool that my dad was driving! IN THE AIR!!!!! I can still remember that flight. It’s one of the memories that I am pretty sure will pop up in my last minutes on earth as well… Anyway, after having 2 kids and starting a business, he just couldn’t find the time to fly anymore. I started flying when I was 13, but ran out of money after just a few hours – long before being ready (or old enough) to solo. Every few years I would get to fly. So the week after the FAA let the planes back in the air, I called my old instructor and started lessons again. Unfortunately, I was then working in Savannah for 2 weeks at a time, coming to Jackson every other weekend to see my cat and check on the house, and then taking flight training in Greenwood. Slow going! Once I moved back to town, I got a local instructor and advanced rapidly. I soloed on 9/11/2002. (That's me coming back from my first solo!) And ever since, I have made sure I went flying on the anniversary of my dad’s death. Actually, on the first anniversary (a couple of weeks before my solo), my instructor and I did an early morning flight over to the Jackson airport (the big airport) and I was coming in for a landing on 16L, several deer went bounding across the approach lights. It was nice. I thought of my dad immediately. So hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get some flight time in. My girlfriend loves to fly, so that’s definitely a plus!
Occasionally, I see my dad. Not really, but occasionally I will pass someone that bears a striking resemblance. Of course, once I do the double take and get a really good look, there is hardly any resemblance at all. But I’m sure my stares have a most disconcerting effect on the “victim”. I guess it’s because there’s so much stuff I want to tell him that he’s missed out on. And I would love to be able to introduce my girlfriend to him. She would love him.
I have become my dad, in a way. The daughter of one of his old buddies gave me some pictures she found a couple of years ago. They were taken on Cat Island, in the Mississippi sound. (Every year around this time he and some of our friends would go camping for a few days. I remember being miserable when I couldn’t go. They finally took me 2 months before my eighth birthday on August 13th and we stayed until the 15th. In 1969. Ring any bells? Yes – Hurricane Camille was bearing down on Cuba – unbeknownst to us. This was before Jim Cantore started showing up a week before a hurricane would hit. Data wasn’t very good back then. Fortunately, we heard it on the radio. I remember thinking the Gulf was mighty angry when we were riding the pre-storm winds and waves in. It’s the only time I have ever been seasick. 2 days later, she hit.) Anyway, when I first looked at those pictures she gave me, my first thought was “where did she get those pictures of me?”. I don’t remember my dad’s goatee (it was a Vandyke, actually). I have only seen pictures. But looking at these, it was like looking in a mirror. I still run into friends of his, and they get weepy when they see me. I have become my dad.
Except that I would vote for Clinton. Again. In a heartbeat!
I love you, daddy!