Daddy Dearest

My father died on November 21, 1995 of lung cancer. I watched him die on his “spot” on the living room couch. He did get to say goodbye albeit weakly, but I did get that. His death affected my life in more ways than I can even begin to concede.

My dad smoked my whole life. One year he was diagnosed with pneumonia. And then again the next year, and the next. When I was 11 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and told that he already had a collapsed lung. My little sister and I would told that he would be fine. He had quit smoking the first year that he had been diagnosed with pneumonia. He was also in good shape. He was a construction worker. He hunted every winter and took me fishing every summer. He was strong, he would beat this.

He opted to receive chemo. It tore him down. Fast. I watched the man who built our house, who took me fishing constantly, who worked full time and raised a garden become a skeleton who couldn’t walk or hardly talk. He was on morphine, fentanyl, and so many other pain meds that I was afraid to be left alone with him. One day, he had me hide behind the couch with him because he thought that our house was a war zone, and that my mother was the enemy. He would tell him that Elvis floated downfall rom the ceiling singing “Blue Suede Shoes”. At the age of 11, I didn’t know what to make of this.

I was young enough when my father died that my memories of him are still that he was perfect. Obviously, I know that he wasn’t, that he couldn’t be, but to me, he is.

I was really into theater as a kid. I was always doing a play. The fall of 1995 was no different. One day in November after school, I arrived at home to find a lot of family there. My mom and my aunt took me into my parents bedroom. They told me that my father was not doing as well as they had hoped. I asked them if would be able to see my show, which I believe was “P.T. Barnum” in March. They told me no, he probably would not make it past the new year. I felt so betrayed. They lied to me! They said that it was to protect me, but it installed my life long distrust for others.

A nurse was to come that night to take care of my father. He had IVs, he couldn’t really walk. My mom needed help. She was to arrive at around bedtime so that my mom could sleep. About an hour or so after I was told that my dad was dying, he called to me. He motioned for me to sit on his bed. He managed to get out “Goodbye”. He knew. He had my family members move him to his spot on the couch and we watched him die. The nurse showed up about 10 minutes after he died.

I don’t remember much of that night. My aunt took my sister and I to her house for a little bit. When we got back home in the middle of the night, he was gone. My mom, my sister and I all slept in my mom’s bed that night. I will never forget that we all woke up at about 6 am. Each of us had the exact same dream that my dad came to us and told us he loved us. I have believed in spirits ever since then. My father’s spirit has come to me and my kids ever since.

My dad died right before his favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. This started the Thanksgiving curse. The next year, after Thanksgiving dinner, my grandmother had a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body, including her brain. She was never even close to the same person from that day until her death. The following year my aunt’s father died the day after Thanksgiving. My daughter was born on November 28, 2005. Exactly one decade and one week after my dad’s death. She was the first grandchild, the first great-grandchild. She broke the curse of death with her life.

After my dad’s death, I spiraled into a deep depression from which I have struggled with my entire life. I have had trouble getting close to men. This was multiplied by the fact that the first man that I got close to after my dad’s death, at the age of 15, raped me in the middle of the night when I was 16. The next man I got close to,  my high school boyfriend, was a mean, alcoholic. Luckily I found my husband, my soul mate, because if he ever betrays me I will probably never be able to get close to another man.

My life would have been so different if my father had not died. For one he would have never let a boy spend the night at my house. This would have prevented the rape. I lived to make him proud. I don’t think that I would have gotten into drugs if he were around.

I often wonder what my dad would think about how I turned out. Disappointed, no doubt. I always feel that I let him down. I pray for his forgiveness often. I wish that he could hug me and tell me that he still loves me.

He would have loved my kids, and them him. We have pictures of him throughout the house. My daughter used to tell me that my dad “who lives up in the sky” would come and play hide and seek with her. She said that he was a really good hider because she could never find him. She was only between two and three. She was too young to make something like that up.

My son used to be afraid to go to his grave, but is not so scared anymore. He thought that a graveyard had skeletons everywhere.

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Me as a baby with my mother and father. Circa 1985

I know that I have made a mess of my life, Daddy, but I am working on get my life back together. I am just a little bit of a late bloomer. I am going to make my 30’s count. I am going to be a worthwhile member of society. I hope that you can look down on me and be proud of the woman that I have become.

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