I had promised myself I’d do better on updating, and then life punched me in the face. A few years back, Sean Patrick Flanery (shineuntiltomorrow.com) wrote a blog post titled “Sometimes you just need a minute”. It was about the death of his beloved dog, Donut. Anyone who has ever lost a pet knows that pain. But I didn’t lose a pet.
I lost my dad.
Before you send your condolences, I need to come clean. I had no relationship with my father. At all. I hadn’t spoken to him in something like 10 years, of not longer. He didn’t beat me or molest me or anything horrible like that. He just never seemed to care much about me growing up. My dad was a sports guy, baseball mainly, he played in the minor leagues until he tore up his knee. I was not into sports, I was an academic child. Did well in school, sang in the school choir, was even in a few school plays in elementary and junior high school.
He never came to even one performance.
He and my mother divorced when I was in college. He eventually moved away to Denton, Texas, where we had lived when I was 20.
He had never taken care of his health, and I spent most of my life telling him he needed to or it would bite him in the ass, and it did. He had open heart surgery several years ago, and a pacemaker installed. He was an alcoholic that continued to drink, however, and his diet was horrible.
He was in and out of the hospital more times than I can even remember over the last few years, and in and out of ICU. He started using a walker and a wheelchair. His hygiene (never a strong suit with him to begin with) just totally went out the window. He once questioned my mom (they still talked) about why my brother or I didn’t move down there and take care of him.
That right there is very telling. He didn’t want to do things for himself, he wanted someone else to do it.
His doctors commended his decision to buy a treadmill. My mom and he talked about it, and he said, “Even if I can only walk for a few minutes at first, maybe I can slowly walk a little more each day.”
When my brother and I went to go through his things after he passed, the treadmill was covered in dust, and had an end table on it. He had bought a mini-fridge from a neighbor that he could keep right next to his recliner for the specific reason of keeping beer in it – so he wouldn’t have to walk 10 feet to the kitchen to get it.
He had flatlined previous times in ICU and been brought back. This time when he went in for blood in his stool, he was refusing some treatment. He flatlined and they gave him CPR. They called my brother and he spoke to the pulmonologist who recommended that if dad’s heart stopped again, to let it go. He had a 73 year old heart that was bad and only had one working valve that was working incorrectly and backing up blood into his lungs. He was on a ventilator and unconscious, so the decision was on us, but he had been refusing treatment lately, so we thought maybe he was ready to go. We were supporting the decision to let him go if it happened.
A few hours later, the phone rang. It was brother letting me know that dad was gone. It was about 1:30 a.m. California time, 3:30 a.m. Texas time.
I was very conflicted about all of it. I think he was ready to go, just tired of hospitals and being sick and going through all of that. On the other hand, I was mad that he “gave up”.
My brother and I ended up going to Texas for 5 days and taking care of stuff. His apartment was a roach infested mess.
The worst part is that most of my dad’s stuff ended up in the trash. A neighbor lady took all of the meat he had in the freezer, so I was glad that didn’t go to waste, as well as some canned goods. She also took his recliner and a small shelf unit. An old friend of his came by and took the TV (a nice one, wish I’d been able to get it home), DVD/CD player and all his DVD’s, and came back the next day to take his treadmill (again, wish I could have kept it), and helped take some of his other things to Goodwill (usable clothes, walker, wheelchair).
I got sick because of course I did, so after that first day, I was useless, and could only lay in bed at the hotel exhausted. My brother had to take care of the rest of the stuff. I felt bad, but I was so sick. It was not a good trip.
They did his cremation this past Sunday, and on Tuesday, his ashes arrived. I put them in our storage, because having them in the house creeps me out. We are going to scatter them up in mountains near where he used to go hunting, but we have to wait for the snow to melt. In the end, I also had to sell my diamond earrings to a friend just to afford to put an obituary in the paper for him. Didn’t those used to be free?
There is something very upsetting about the fact that most of my father’s belongings went in the trash, most of his paperwork just went through the shredder, and his body is reduced to ashes.
Your life just goes in the trash.
Sometimes you just need a minute.