The calendar says it’s October 15th. Just about halfway through the month. Halfway to Halloween. (one my my fav holidays!) Approaching the edge of reason to BUY a costume for your kid from Target. Any longer and you’re riffling through bags thrown onto the floor, and it’s likely the entire costume is not in there anymore. Everything is resembling, tasting, and smelling like a pumpkin. I don’t mind this, but my poor husband is not necessarily a pumpkin fan. .. other than marrying one 🙂
But for me, this marks what would have been my dad’s birthday. Right after he died, i always felt kind of odd on this day. The first year or two i would get sad and wonder when it wouldn’t hurt so badly. .. then the hurt diluted. Almost 11 years later, it’s still sad, but it doesn’t bring me to tears. … not necessarily. Now any random song at the wrong time of the month, or during a particularly emotional or stressful day might reduce me to tears, but usually the date on the calendar no longer does that. He would have been 66 today. The older i get, the more tragic i find it that he chose the path he did. He was only 56 when he died. Newly 56. Not quite 56 and 2 months. That is such a young age now that i’m 36 and my own husband is nearly 45.
My dad didn’t die in some unexpected accident. There was no surprising shocking medical diagnosis that caused an unexpected demise. Not a car crash or plane crash. He simply ate himself to death. Our family history is RIDDLED with heart disease, diabetes and all the other side dish health problems. He smoked when he was younger, as did most people of my parent’s generation. His own mother was one of the first recipients of a quadruple bypass surgery. A surgery he would later have to have duplicated himself. When I was still very young he was diagnosed with type II diabetes. He was insulin dependent nearly my whole life. 20 years or so. I still vividly remember him going to the fridge, taking out the little vial, and rubbing it quickly between his massive hands to warm it up before sticking the syringe in and filling it. Then he’d poke himself and inject it in his thigh. A ritual I saw countless times.
Given his diagnosis , you would think he’d reevaluate at least some of his choices with food… but nope. My parents divorced, he remarried, and continued right down the path to the ER. At 49 the doctor’s found a blockage and insisted on a quadruple bypass surgery.
Having your chest cracked open at 49 years old, and having 4 major arteries replaced, and waking up to an assortment of tubes and cords piping your body would SURELY make you reevaluate your life, RIGHT?!
Onward and downward, as it would later play out.
Next up was a congestive heart failure diagnosis. I remember not understanding what this meant. I was about 23 i think when he told me this. I looked it up online. I found out that it was something a person could live with, but never be cured of. My dad had nitris packets in his shirt pocket in case he needed a little something to help him out. The likelihood of living longer than a year with this diagnosis was unlikely. Five years was sort of the maximum according to my own layman research on a new(ish) world wide web. I’m guessing that has a lot to do with someone’s lifestyle, and *SHOCK* if you don’t change what got you to that diagnosis, the outcome shouldn’t be too surprising.
Still undaunted, he ate on.
My dad was an intelligent man. Painfully so. This, combined with his love of gab endeared him to lots of people… not necessarily to his children, but he got along famously with strangers. The man loved to spend time in Auto Parts stores – snore! and bookstores – and anything airplane related. History was a big huge hobby of his and he loved learning about wars.
I use the word ‘learning’ loosely. In his mind, i’m sure it was more a reaffirmation of stuff he already knew. The man was an encyclopedia of anything you would never necessarily have to know about a war. The tanks used, what cartridges were shot out of them, the type of tracks that made them go. The ammunition and types of guns/knives/grenades, etc of any army man on either side of the fight. The planes, of course, and a whole lot of trivia about them. it goes on and on.
As smart as he was, i learned and put some things together as I grew up, that he was a very unhappy person. He didn’t see a whole lot of value in himself. His brain, yes, his self, notsomuch. It’s sad, really, when someone virtually begins life not seeing their own worth. He gave up on things that should have mattered so easily. I remember how hurt he would be that my brothers wouldn’t reach out to him. But for HIM to pick up the phone and call took an act of God. If i wanted to talk to him, i had to call. It didn’t go the other way. He loved spending time with his younger brother. They often went shooting together, and once in a while, i got to go. But there were many times plans fell through, and it seemed always on my uncle’s end. My dad would seem so hurt… but i rarely saw him pick up a phone and call him. My dad tended to sit back and have the mentality that ‘if they want to see me, they’ll call me’. For a smart man, he was ignorant and stubborn when it came to communication.
When he died, i remember a couple of people asking if it was expected. That’s a strange question to ask someone grieving a loss. I imagine even if someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a prognosis that includes a time limit, there is no way to emotionally prepare yourself for the loss of a loved one. Was it expected? Yes. Was it predicted? Yes. Was anyone ready for it? No. .. other than him. He knew on some level he was going to die. He hadn’t been sick. He didn’t have any symptoms other than just not feeling ‘well’. He gave me the most incredible gift anyone has given me right before he died. He called me. He called me to chat. A gift i will forever cherish and be thankful for. So many many very many people do not get a chance to say goodbye. I did not have any indication when i said goodbye that last time it would be so. He died the next night. He went peacefully.
So on this day, what would have been his birthday, i am reflecting on his life once again. I had a dream about him the other night. It’s not the same as being able to see him, but i sure wish i could get one more hug from the man. My dad gave the best hugs. I wish when i was younger i would have appreciated them more. Not pulled away so soon. The crushing squeeze he would give sometimes would embarrass me and now i see that as a shameful waste of an opportunity to just accept something. Accept something from someone who was so stingy about giving anything away of himself. If i could talk to him now, i’d tell him he was worth it. He was worth me letting him hug his daughter anytime for as long as he wanted.
I love you, dad. I hope you are celebrating with a giant slice of Motherload Cake wherever you are.
Happy would be Birthday