I think it's way harder when it's someone that you've always had a hard time with.
When my mom died, it was horrible. But we were tight. I knew in my heart that she died fully knowing how I felt about her. It was sudden, and there wasn't time to say anything to her...but I still felt like there was nothing really left unsaid. There was just a security in knowing that she knew.
It wasn't the same with dad. And it was weird because there WAS time, and I DID say what I thought I needed to say to let him know how I felt...but it still feels weirdly unfinished. I think it was more because I never had to prove my love to my mom...I could tell she just knew. My dad and I just never really had that kind of bond. I always told him I loved him and made sure he knew that I wasn't mad at him for the things that I SHOULD have still been mad about. I'm a forgiving person, and I think we all just wanted him to know that it was okay to let go.
But it was still weird when he did.
Valentine's Day. I had to work, but then Jeff took me out for dinner at an Indian restaurant that I really love. We were sitting there discussing our plans for the rest of the night. We were about to land on a movie to go watch, when suddenly he brought up us driving up to Hoover Dam since I've never been there and wanted to do something different. Jeff being spontaneous? I should have known only a death in the family could come next.
My phone rang about 5 minutes after we got our food. It was my sister. Yeah, my sister that NEVER calls me. I had a bad feeling, but I decided to let it go to voicemail because I didn't want to ruin the evening if it was something trivial. Three minutes later, my brother calls. I already knew. There's really only one event at that point that could have possibly brought my brother and sister to the same location. I COULDN'T answer. I couldn't hear the words. I just sat there staring at my phone and Jeff asked what was wrong. I said "something bad" and then the text popped up.
My eyes welled up and I said "my dad's dead. I gotta go home." I grabbed the keys and walked out and got into the car and just started bawling. I thought I was prepared. He had been in the hospital for over a month. Most days when I called him, he was so supersaturated with whatever meds they had him on to manage pain that he couldn't talk...he would mumble something incoherently then trail off. It was like talking to a zombie and it made me cry everytime.
Then one day he seemed okay. He was able to talk and he told me he ate three peaches (his favorite!) and he was very happy about that. We had a nice little chat and I told him I loved him and that I was glad he was feeling better and that I'd talk to him soon. Three days later, he was dead.
My brother said he went to see his specialist the day he died and was told he would need to have even more of his left leg amputated. He says he thinks my dad just gave up because he made his peace, got to spend a little time out in the sunshine, and wasn't willing to endure another painful and damaging amputation surgery. He already had his entire right leg amputated a few months prior and part of the left one a little later. The last time I saw him was December when he was just recovering from the initial amputation and he was already having such a hard time adjusting. He mostly just sat there in and out of a drug-induced sleepy haze. It wasn't the way he wanted to live. He was a cowboy, a rough and tumble dude, his WHOLE life...this wasn't his life anymore, and I understand.
The funeral was hard and frustrating. It cost almost a thousand dollars to get from Las Vegas to Houston with no notice. There's not a lot of sympathy out there in the travel industry. My sister mostly took care of all the arrangements, but it was really hard to get a hold of most of my dad's friends. He didn't have many, and they're not exactly the type of people you can just look up on FaceBook. Most of them don't even have phones! A few showed up. It was quiet and sad and we all had to speak at the wake. I tried to keep it light, commenting on how strangers would come up to me and ask if he was my dad and tell me what a great old dude he was. That actually happened pretty often!
I never knew my dad as a young guy. He was already almost 50 by the time I was born so he was always an old dude to me. He had a unique ability to be forgiven. He had two wives, six kids, and at least ten waitresses he was in love with along the way. He was 79. He was my dad and I hope he knew that I loved him, despite everything.
We were always so hot and cold. I feel like so much of my low self-esteem is a direct result of the way he made me feel about myself. I know he knew that I harboured a bit of resentment, because he told me. We talked about it. He apologized and I forgave him for the most part. So many times in my life I disagreed with his methods, his beliefs, his thoughts...but in some way I think hating all those parts of him made me a more tolerant and accepting person.
It's weird because some days I'll feel like I need to call him when I get home from work. It's a passing thought on the drive home and it takes me a few seconds to realize I can't do that anymore. It's odd when you don't see someone very often and then one day they're gone. It feels like he's still in Texas waiting for me to visit home and drive him to drink iced tea and flirt with waitresses.
I don't know what happens to you after you die. Is there something else? No idea. But if there is, for his sake...I hope there's iced tea.
One of my brother's friends made a drawing of my dad's hands on the day he died.
His knuckle tattoos always made him seem like a badass in my eyes.