This evening around 11 PM will mark 19 years since my father passed away. The July 4th holiday has been a mixed bag ever since.
This photo is from when my father was in the Army during the Korean War.
It was one of the hardest periods of my life. It was as if nature slapped me upside the head and forced me to grow suddenly in ways I was never prepared for. Something changed in an instant. It was the fact that part of who created me was gone. I was 32 then and I have felt for the longest time the decade of my 30’s is one big blur.
I was hurt and angry for the longest time. Went through a period of going out and getting really drunk. Thankfully, I always made it home in one piece. It took me years before I could talk about the family circumstances that took place around the time of his passing. Let’s just say for 19 years except for one family member in Florida, I have no family connections on my fathers side.
I wish he was here. I wish I could ask for advice with all I see happening in the world. I wish I had listened more to him in certain areas of life instead of blowing off that I knew it all.
He said one thing to me during this time that took me all this time to actually believe I now know what he was trying to say. There was this lady I was seeing at the time. She was divorced with two children. There were some good times but there was something nagging about her in a couple of areas. Dad asked when was I going to get married. Told my dad I wasn’t sure if I was “in love” with her for marriage. He stunned me when he said “What does love have to do with it?”
For the longest time I thought that was the weirdest response to that I had ever heard. Now, I believe my father was trying to tell me in his own way it wasn’t good to live life alone.
My father wasn’t one to wear emotions on his sleeve. He wasn’t a touchy, feely kind of man. Deep down I knew he loved me but you never heard the words.
When we knew he was dying there were people that wanted material things he had. I honestly could care less about all that. What I wanted money couldn’t buy. I wanted my father to tell me he loved me. Funny thing is… I couldn’t say it to him. It was as if I had to hear him say it first.
Then I got what I had been longing for from my father. He wanted to tell me about things he wanted some other family members to have. One was a stereo system I gave him I was still making payments on. I told my father fine. It was his decision on what he wanted. I believe he started by saying he never was good talking about feelings. I’m rusty there but not this. He then said “I love you. Of all of my children I am the proudest of you the most.”
I was stunned. I mean, to hear him say the rest after saying he did love me. I got what I wanted from my father and meant more than anything money could buy.
However, I sometimes out loud will say “Well dad. Wonder if you are still proud of me now.” With the current messes I find myself in.
So I actually didn’t learn about my fathers passing until the afternoon of July 4th. I was online when my family member in Florida saw me on asking why I was on the chat program (This was pre social media days and no smart phones)? Then he said oh hell you don’t know do you? When I sent those words I knew instantly what was coming.
“Your father passed away last night.”
I couldn’t reach anyone on the phone. I immediately drove to his home. No one was there and the locks had been changed.
I won’t go into details here. Let’s say the last week my father was alive we had words. He promised to do something and I called him on the phone and he was very nasty to me. I got angry because again I felt like I was being pitted one parent against the other. My parents were divorced at this time. I angrily told my father that this was the last time he would ever hear from me and I wouldn’t attend his funeral. I hung up on him.
So. I kept my word. I did not go to his funeral. With all that had been going on there was a family member I probably would have ripped their head off. Instead, the funeral home arranged for me to come down to their chapel In Creswell, NC. and bring whomever I wanted for a private viewing.
I brought my mother and a family friend who knew my father pretty well. Her husband and dad drove trucks together years ago. When we got to the funeral home, everything seemed surreal. I walked up to the casket and I saw my father lying there. Then I touched him. His body was ice cold and shock went through me. It wasn’t a dream, my father was indeed dead. When my father learned his was going to pass away we drove down one evening to this funeral home. He wanted to make arrangements. I remember my father saying to the funeral director that he really didn’t care what kind of box he was put in. He could be thrown in a ditch for all he cared. I remember getting up to go outside to get a smoke. I called someone on phone but can’t remember who it was. It just tore me up hearing him say something like that and I couldn’t handle it at that moment.
There would now never be any further conversations. There was never no taking back that argument.
For several years after he passed I went down by myself to visit his grave. While there I let everything out that I had held in. I screamed at the grave once. Then a visit I cried. Then another I went through all the things that transpired up to his death.
My father was bipolar. Near the end of life he was no longer on his meds I am sure. At the end of these hash it out visits. I told my father I forgave him because I know he couldn’t have been in his right mind during our last conversation.
Told him I would try my best to be the best man that I could be and I drove away somewhat in peace. And I told him I loved him.