Today, April 9th, marks the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. I vividly remember the call from my mom. She asked me if I was sitting down. That’s classic, isn’t it? My first thought was that she had found out some bad news about her health; she was suffering with pancreatic cancer at the time, diagnosed just 6 months before. What she said instead came as a complete shock: Dad was dead.
Just a week or so before they had returned from a cruise. Just that weekend they had gone on their annual getaway with the group of friends they had known since college. Apparently, they had come in from that weekend just that day. Dad didn’t feel very good, so he went into the living room and sat down in his favorite rocking chair. Several minutes later, Mom went to check on him, and he was dead.
My dad was an alcoholic. He had congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. It had only been a short while ago that he had almost died falling down the stairs at their house and then gone through alcohol withdrawal while recovering in the hospital.
But I was still shocked to hear that he was dead. What I found out later was that Mom hadn’t exactly been forthright with us about his health. Even on their cruise the week before they had called 911 from the hotel before they embarked. Apparently, the EMTs were frequent visitors, and I knew nothing about it. It’s hard being more than 2,000 miles away. She didn’t want us to worry.
My dad was not a touchy-feely, hugging, emotion-revealing kind of guy. I can probably count the times he told me he loved me on one hand. That used to make me really angry. Girls need their dads to lavish them with love so that they grow up secure in their identity as females, confident of who they are as women. I didn’t get that, and I felt gipped.
And then I look at the rocking chair that now sits in my bedroom–the one that was given to my parents when I was born–the one in which my dad took his final breath–and I try to see things from his perspective. I try to rock a mile in his chair.
He grew up the only child of older parents, and, if my grandfather was with him anything like he was with us, he didn’t get much huggin’ in his home either. I imagine he didn’t get many compliments or encouragement.
He always felt that he married up and that he never really fit in with my mom’s family, never fully felt the approval of her parents.
He worked in an industry that was constantly growing and changing, and therefore he went through many job changes and many seasons of being out of work.
He had three kids in four years–that’s enough to drive anyone a little crazy–and another 7 years later. The financial responsibilities that were on him were great, and not helped by his desire to live a lifestyle that he felt would allow my mom to maintain her place in society. Or so he perceived.
And frankly, he didn’t handle it well. The drinking grew worse, the jobs became less steady, and the downward spiral of depression and alcoholism finally took their toll. To look at him on the outside, you really wouldn’t know it was that bad. He could laugh, he drove a nice car, he loved to travel. But I think inside was a sad boy who never got the kind of love he deserved.
I miss my dad. I’m not mad at him anymore. I sit in his favorite chair and remember what he was like before the pressure got too bad. He used to take me to Golden State Warrior games for my birthday. He loved college football games and he and Mom had season tickets to the Cal Bears. He loved cars, he flew small planes, he sailed, he collected Kodak cameras and loved to take pictures, he loved traveling and eating fine food. And I’m sure he loved his kids; he just didn’t know how to express it.
Love you, Dad. Hope to see you in heaven. And when I see you, I’m going to give you a big hug.
Thankful today for:
851. the opportunity to go work with my husband out of town
852. a son with a driver’s license
853. good students, both the ones I teach and the ones I parent
854. no more lows in the 40s
855. dinner parties
856. close grocery stores
857. an abundance of choices
858. free stuff
860. my sweet 4-year-old nephew whom I hardly ever get to see 😦