Today is April 2nd 2013. Two years ago on this day my dad died. That's such a weird sentence to say. Like I know he's completely gone, but seeing as how he was never really there it doesn't seem like it's a reality.
I made it through today without any problem. I had a million things going on and didn't spend much time thinking about it. There were a few times when the thought would hit me but overall I was busy with school, work was super busy and difficult and it was like any other day in the last year and a half.
I do want to say that everyone deals with grief differently. When he died I carried his ashes around in a pill holder on my keychain for about 3 months. My brother on the other hand pretended like nothing happened and we haven't spoken about it since. I don't know what his thoughts are on any of this and I'm 98% sure it isn't anything he thinks about.
My relationship with my dad when he died was extremely strained, but it wasn't always like that. When I was a kid he was the best person I've ever known. He got us every weekend and took us to the gas station to buy unlimited amounts of candy, then home to watch SNICK on his big orange couch (yes, it really was orange), we got to eat McDonald's at least one of those days, we got to swim for 90 percent of the weekend, we played pool in the clubhouse, he snuck us in the back door at the dollar theater downtown that is now a Harlequin, (yup, he was that ridiculous. The DOLLAR theater) my brother and Donald would steal Hines Root Beer out of the 1970's era soda machine and on Sundays after swimming we would have to go back to the house to watch football (I HATED football at the time) and I would take a nap. For a 7 to 9 year old that is the greatest thing ever!
Then I got older and realized how he really was. I remember he was married to another lady named Nancy for a while, but I don't remember much about her. I remember she had 2 sons and one was epileptic. The other one was kind of a dick. She wasn't around long so I don't need to go into her. When I was 9 or 10 he moved from Olympia back down here to Boise without telling us. I remember specifically going to his house one weekend to be dropped off and him not being there, which is when we found out he moved. I feel like I blocked out the next 4 years because the next thing I remember is being here visiting him one summer with his new wife. It was his third marriage, and it ended up being his longest. That is another thing he didn't tell us about. We found out one day that he got married and had been married for awhile, when we made plans to come visit him in the summer.
The last time I came to visit was when I was 14. I made the trip solo this time around when in years prior I always came down with my brother and one of his friends. I remember being extremely homesick and so anxious the entire time, I decided I didn't want to come back again. After that trip I spoke to him maybe 6 times. I didn't really decide to cut him off, it's just kind of how it happened- we just stopped contacting each other. I did get the occasional birthday card which was nice, but he never really had any involvement in my life after I was 10. When I would come visit it seemed like more something I had to do instead of something I wanted to do that was fun.
I feel like I should also note that my parents DID NOT like each other. I sometimes wonder why they got married in the first place. My entire life my mom talked shit about my dad and how terrible of a person he was and how he didn't pay child support and how he's the worst ever blah blah blah. My dad was actually a lot nicer about it. He very rarely talked bad about her in front of me, and when he did it wasn't anything close to what she said about him, so in that way I appreciated him. My parents divorced when I was a baby, so thankfully I never had to deal with any of the drama of having your parents divorce. It was always normal for them to be separated and hate each other, it was just a part of my life.
Wow this is turning into quite the ramble. I wasn't planning on typing out my whole life story with my old man, but somehow this is helping. Reliving the good and the bad is really helping me through this mood I'm in. I wasn't planning on publishing this but now I think I'm going to, its' really a therapeutic thing for me and I want people to see how my dad being dead affects me.
April 11th, 2013
I stopped writing right after that last paragraph. I was tired and went to bed and was going to pick up the next morning but I just wasn't feeling it. I have this thing when it comes to my family issues where I just push them aside and don't feed them when my brain wants me to. Out of sight out of mind kind of thing, it's the only way I can handle my brain not breaking, which is a story for another blog another day. So I will pick up now where I left off and see how far I get.
I didn't talk to my dad much while I was in high school, but when I was 19 I applied to jobs in Americorps in every state that wasn't Washington. I wanted to get out of Olympia and I had wanted to join Americorps since I was in middle school. The thought of being able to help people and do good in the world was way more appealing than going to college straight out of high school and doing what everyone else was doing. So I applied all over and the only program that called me back was ironically located in Boise, the place my dad had lived for the last 10 years. Around the time I got a call from Americorps my grandma died. She was my dad's mom and she was awesome cause she was my grandma and I loved her, but she had spent the last several years with my aunt in Hawaii and I hadn't seen her in years either. She was also like 89 years old so it was time. So my grandma died and we had a celebration of life here in Boise so I came down to interview for a few jobs and attend my grandma's funeral. I came down for a week and I stayed with my dad while I was here. They lived in a small 2 bedroom trailer so I slept on the couch and it was crowded. I hadn't really talked to him in a long time so it was a little awkward but mostly we went back to normal. I do remember not having a car so they had to drive me everywhere and that drove me crazy cause I didn't know anyone other than him and his wife.
I had a few interviews with Americorps and the different sites and ended up getting a job at the Boys and Girls Club. Once I had the job lined up it was time to find a place to live. In Americorps I was given a stipend of $700 a month. I had the option of getting another job, but I was working 40 hours a week and had to get x amount of volunteer hours a week to reach my requirements as well, so I didn't go with that option. My dad told me about one of the trailers in his trailer park that was for sale and happened to be 2 down from his. I went over and looked at it and the guy wanted $500 for a 2 bed trailer, then the lot space would be $260 and that was all I had to pay. I thought it was a great deal, and since this was before the days of Craigslist and roommates.com and all of that, I decided to go for it.
So I came back home for about a month and then moved down here. While I was gone my dad called me and told me he would clean the place up and make sure everything was in working order. I thought "awesome, I have someone looking out for me and everything will be taken care of, all I have to do is move!"
When I arrived the place hadn't been cleaned out, the oven didn't work, I didn't have a hot water heater, there was no AC or swamp cooler, and there was no drainage system for the shower. That is when I should have realized he hadn't changed, but I didn't. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and tried to work on our relationship. I ended up staying in the trailer for a year and a half and made it work. I had a roof over my head but nothing fancy. I never did get a hot water heater, there never was drainage put in the bathroom, my roof started leaking one day and I found out I was missing about 1/4th of the roof and it was just covered with a tarp, I didn't have a stove at all so I used a hot plate and a toaster oven, and I plugged my fridge into my neighbors outside outlet by an extension cord run through my window. In return I let him park his Harley's in my carport. I loved living in the trailer because it taught me a lot about what is necessary and what isn't. I had great neighbors who looked out for me, and I was able to live off a small amount and have lots left over. I wouldn't change the trailer experience for the world, but that year is what helped me realize that no matter how badly I wanted to mend our relationship, and no matter how hard I tried, he wouldn't change.
Something I haven't noted is that my dad was an alcoholic. Not like someone who drank too much a few times a week, but someone who could go through a bottle of gin in a day and still not feel it. He had been an alcoholic my entire life but I didn't start to realize it until I was around 11. I have numerous stories of him screaming and hollering about something, of him being an asshole for seemingly no reason, of him getting pulled over with us in the car but somehow getting out of a DUI. I have a lot of those memories but I kept wanting to think it was in the past. He had gotten sick about 2 years before I moved here and was in the hospital for 40 plus days. I didn't know about it until he was long out of the hospital though cause he didn't think he should tell us. At the time drank a hole into his stomach and started to have internal bleeding and ended up in the hospital. After he made it out he stopped drinking for a solid year, but by the time I moved back he was back at the bottle.
After I moved out of the trailer and I didn't have to rely on him or showering every day I saw him less and less. I would try to spend Thanksgiving with them, where we would go to Golden Corral and stuff our faces, and I would try to head over every few months, but he was the same person. He was always drunk and often high. He would try to hide it all the time, like I wouldn't realize the house smelled like weed or that he couldn't walk down the stairs on his own, but I knew. At that point I had resolved myself to the fact that he was where he wanted to be. He wanted to go down this path and he didn't want to change. It was a tough thing for me to realize, but at the same time there's nothing you can do when someone has an addiction.
About a year before he died my aunt, his sister, came into town from Hawaii to visit. She and I had some great times catching up and we had a conversation where we talked about him and what we should do. We decided to just let it go, because he was getting what he wanted. He wanted to die, he wanted to continue down the path, and no matter how hard we tried there was nothing we could do to stop him. So we let him continue doing what he had done for 40 years, what he knew; we let him drink himself to death.
After his first round in the hospital he had a gut full of surgical mesh and tubes and all sorts of other stuff. I don't know exactly what was going on, but he legitimately looked like he was pregnant. We always made fun of it and asked how the baby was and we would laugh. Then one day in March of 2011 I received a call from his wife who said his stomach had been bothering him so he went to the doctor and they found out he had drunk another hole into his stomach and because of the other things he had in there he had to have emergency surgery to correct it. I didn't think much of it and I called my brother to let him know and we went about our daily lives. He came out of that surgery and they put him into a medically induced coma for a week to detox him. He was in the ICU and I went and visited him once-- he was on a respirator and looked more peaceful than I had ever seen him. He had color to his skin and his hair was combed. He wasn't freshly shaved but had a little bit of stubble, and still had his signature fu manchu trucker stache. He looked like I remember when I was a kid, just older.
I hate hospitals and I especially hate the ICU. My grandma was in the ICU for a few weeks before she passed and I have horrible memories of going and having to watch her as she withered. I went that one time to see him and I had to sit there with his wife the whole time, I didn't have any privacy. It was just really hard and really awkward and I never went back.
I received a call 2 days after I had visited that said he was removed from the medically induced coma but was then in a real coma. The doctors said he would make it but it would probably take a while for his brain to want to wake up all the way. He was in a coma for another week or so, and then he woke up. He was awake for 3 days and I was told he was back to normal Bob. He was ornery and grumpy and flirty with the nurses. He still had a respirator and that really pissed him off cause he couldn't talk. When I got the news I started to relax and figured I'd go see him when he got out, which I figured would be in a few days.
I was at work one day shortly after that when I received the call that he was gone. It was April 4th, 2011. I will never forget that day. I was sitting at my desk and I had his wife's number memorized at that time. I saw her number come up and I just knew. I hesitantly answered and she said "he's gone. We lost him." I don't know what I was feeling in that moment, but I remember feeling angry. The tears instantly started, I threw my headset off onto my desk, I IM'd my lead and I walked out the door. I didn't talk to anyone. I just went out the door and went home. I cried the entire way there, and when I got home I sat in my chair and cried. I cried out the anger, the frustration, the loss, the sadness, the guilt. I had so much guilt. Why didn't I go see him while he was awake? Why did I have to be so selfish and put myself above my dying father? Why didn't I try to witness to him and tell him about the love of Jesus? Why did I allow him to keep doing what I knew would kill him? Why didn't I do more?
I couldn't bring myself to talk to anyone, so I just sat alone for an hour or two and cried. I cried with my cats and I cried to the sky. I was sad. I was angry. I was guilty. I was confused. Man was I confused. I updated my Facebook status thanking everyone for praying and letting them know he was gone. I couldn't bring myself to make that phone call. Then I called my brother and he made sure I was ok. It was the only time during the entire ordeal that my brother actually acted like he cared not just about me but about the situation in general, and I will forever be grateful for him in those few minutes we spoke. He made plans to fly in from Phoenix and be here for a few days. I was allowed 3 bereavement days and I also had my weekend at that time so I had 5 days off work. Those days were a blur. It was just a crazy overload of responsibility and family.
In my Facebook status I said that if anyone wanted to make a contribution to make me feel better I would accept donations of chocolate milk and Sour Patch Kids. They were just two things that were on my mind at the time, I didn't think anyone would follow through on it. Shortly after that post I received a call from a friend that said I was coming over, I didn't have a choice. So I went to their house and just hung out. They had some friends over and they brought me Sour Patch Kids, which was unexpected. Then a while later another friend showed up and brought me chocolate milk and SPK's. At this point I was feeling so loved. Then I got a text from another friend asking if I was home and I said no, I'm at Clint and Felicias. Shortly after there was a knock on the door and that friend and his girlfriend also brought me SPK's and chocolate milk. At another friends house they bought 2 giant sized Hershey's syrups so I could have chocolate milk every time I came over. That was the best thing that could have been done for me, even though I didn't realize it at the time.
Ever since then when I have a bad day or I'm feeling down, those same friends get me chocolate milk and Sour Patch Kids. It's now a thing that if I need cheering up, I need those two things. Last year on the anniversary of Bob dying I was struggling even more than I did this year, and I had an onslaught of my grief treats. This year the same thing happened. I recently told my roommate about the situation and the very next day he brought me a huge chocolate milk.
I had a rough relationship with my dad, and I still have a lot of issues when trying to process through them, but my friends have been by my side the entire way. They let me cry to them, they let me be mad, they let me process the frustration, and they helped me feel like what I was feeling was valid. They never once told me I should think differently or react differently, they were just there, and I appreciate every single one of them more than I can ever explain to them.
We didn't end up having a funeral for him because he wanted to be cremated. He had his ashes put into his true love, an old whiskey jug, and there were various parties had in his memory, just like he wanted.
I don't know why I felt like writing this out, I know I still have lots of unresolved issues, and this seems to have helped. To go through how I was and see where I am now has been helpful. I didn't have a good relationship with my dad and my issues go deep, but looking back on the support I had and typing out this story of who he was and how I saw him has really helped my perspective.
I was watching an episode of New Girl recently where a characters dad died. In it he had to be the responsible one and he had to put everything together and I really could relate. I know it's a tv show and I know it's not real, but it really hit home with me. There's a line where he's giving the eulogy and he says "in the end I don't know if Walt was a good guy or a bad guy, but he was my dad, and I'm really gonna miss him." That sums up my feeling exactly. I don't know if my dad was a good guy or a bad guy, and I don't know if he affected me more in a positive or a negative way, and I don't know if I learned anything good from him, but he was my dad, and I sure do miss him.
RIP old man.
Editor's Note: This song reminds me of him, and every time I hear it I reminisce about him. It's strangely soothing.
"if whiskey don't kill me
Lord, I don't know what will"