December – Month of Memories

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the 2nd, and final time, that my father died. The first time he died was 10 days earlier on December 2nd. He died from self-inflicted poor health combined with bad genes, in other words he had heart disease. He had been sick for years, he’d had several heart attacks and had been in ICU at death’s door once before.

The docs had been telling him to change his eating (meaning quit going to McDonald’s) and to quit smoking (he never did) but he couldn’t or wouldn’t take responsibility for his health. He’d take the 50 different prescriptions the docs gave him but, from what I saw, that was his only concession to his disease.

Many of my childhood memories are of Dad lying on the couch reading a novel, while smoking a cigarette and watching ESPN. He loved ESPN, and cigarettes, and reading. And he didn’t feel well enough to get up and do much.

During the last year of his life I chose to live with him, rather than my mother and sister. Maybe I knew that he was dying and didn’t want him to be alone with that. Maybe I just couldn’t stand my mother in those days. Who knows, probably both.

Four weeks before my Dad died a truant officer showed up at the house and informed him that I hadn’t been going to school, in fact I hadn’t gone to school AT ALL that year. When I came home that afternoon I could tell his heart was racing and his blood pressure was high. But he was incapable of getting mad at me. He knew, better than I did, that the public high school there was garbage and was trying to turn me into a non-thinking conformist robot. I think he secretly delighted in my 10th grade attempt to buck the system.

The school, in their great wisdom, reacted to my prolonged truancy by suspending me for a week. Brilliant! I loved that. But in the end I did have to go back to school wherein I proceeded to get a stomach ache and go hide in the nurse’s office every single day until the day my Dad had his final heart attack.

The day he died I came home and he was not home, he was at his Doctor’s office, some 30 or so miles away. I remember that when he walked into the house I was in the middle of drawing a picture of a deer. I was copying it from a photograph in a book, and it was coming out pretty well. My dad said hi to me and then went off into another part of the house. A few minutes later the phone rang, and I expected him to answer it, but he never did. I went into the kitchen, where the phone was, and picked it up only to hear a click as the person hung up.

I still wonder who that was on the phone.

Then I looked into the living room and saw him, lying on his side on the couch, with his arms up about his chest. He looked like he’d simply fallen over. And I guess he had. When I ran over to him and touched him I knew he was already gone, already dead. And I thought about not calling an ambulance for a little while; but of course I didn’t wait at all, I picked up the phone and called the operator (this was before the days of 911).

The ambulance got there in less than 3 minutes, which I thought was amazing since we lived 15 minutes from the hospital. The paramedics immediately starting barraging me with questions “how long has he been like this?”, “is he on any medications?”. When I showed them the shelf where he kept his medicines one of the paramedics said “holy mother of god” because there were so many bottles. And then he asked me for a bag to put them all in so they could take them along.

I did not, could not, ride in the ambulance. I needed to call my mother and my sister (who lived in the next state) and tell them what had happened. So I stayed behind and made my phone call and then a cop gave me a ride to the hospital. When I got to the hospital the doctor wouldn’t tell me anything, because I was not an adult. Finally when my mother arrived we started getting answers. He was on a respirator, he had little or no brain activity, and that big ‘ole liberal’s bleeding heart was pumping on it’s own. I thought it was amazing that they got it pumping on it’s own. And I remember wishing that they hadn’t. He was gone, why drag it out?

Over the next 10 days people gathered in his hospital room. His brother came from a 1000 miles away, his friends came, and my mother stayed there, next to the man who had left her. And people would say things like “his skin is warmer today than yesterday”. And everyday I would go and see him with his eyes rolling around in his head, not seeing, not there. And everyday my younger sister would wait outside and not go in and see her already dead father with his eyes rolling around in his head.

The day he finally died was such a relief. All that hissing of the respirator and the rolling eyes and the clammy skin would be gone, over, finally over.

My father’s body was shipped “home” to his mother in Kentucky for a military funeral. My father was drafted into the army in that time between the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He hated the army, he hated the government, “bureaucrat” was the worst epithet he could throw at someone. But the army did their duty and gave him a military burial. We did not go.

We stayed and had a Memorial service for him. We filled the Unitarian Church with 200 people who had loved my father. He had been a writer for the local paper and also for a national magazine; he had lived in the area for 13 years and he had had many friends. The Memorial service was full of people reading poetry and singing folks songs, he would have liked it, not one bureaucrat present.

After his death I had no choice but to live with my mother. I also had to change high schools mid-year. The new high school was better, at least academically, than the old one. Though they didn’t have a Latin class which was the only class I had liked in my old school, and they told me that I could not take an Electrical Engineering class because I “would be the only girl in the class”. I wonder how many girls they told THAT too? So I muddled through the rest of the year, getting B’s and C’s in all my college prep classes and refusing to actually STUDY! This new high school had received awards for being the best public high school in the whole state of Massachusetts, and I was getting passing grades without doing a lick of homework! Useless!

In the late Spring my mother did something I will always be grateful to her for. She got me an interview at Simon’s Rock College. I remember the interviewer asking me if I had ever tried in school and I remember telling him that no I never had actually tried. I remember being excited by the idea that trying in school would be WORTH IT! I wrote an essay, took the PSAT tests and I got in. I never did get a high school diploma. I entered as a Freshman in college when I was 15 years old and I never looked back. By my second semester I was on the Dean’s list and my stomach aches were a thing of the past.

I don’t miss my Dad anymore. But I used to wish he could have seen Simon’s Rock. And I still wish that he could meet his granddaughter and his son-in-law, my husband, the bureaucrat who also hates bureaucrats.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

  • Advertising

Pueblo Maya - Mexican Restaurant & Craft Market, Chichen Itza, Piste, Yucatan Yucatan Direct: Real Estate for Sale by Owner in Yucatan, Mexico The Truth About Mexico
  • Blogosphere