My father died 20 years ago! Today would have been his 67th birthday.
Over the years I have had varying opinions of my father. The fun weekend dad who bought me a toy, took me to dinner at McDonalds and drove me fast in his old Corvette. But other times I thought of him as a self-centered little boy who acted like the world owed him something and he owed no one anything.
He was both smart and dumb, lazy and a hard worker, fun and an asshole.
I didn’t speak to him for the last three years of his life – we’d had a dispute over how he was living his life, how he had treated my grandmother before her passing, he was mad that I had not visited him while he was in jail(tax stuff- nothing hard-core) and mostly about money he felt I owed him from the estate of my grandmother. Nothing really that should have stopped a normal father-daughter relationship, but nothing normal here.
I was 27 when he died. That seems like a fairly mature age, but until I did the math I actually had it in my head that I was 24 when he died, I remember feeling way too young to have a dad pass away, but he was young to die. He was only 46.
The night he died I lived in the house my grandparents had owned when they were young in Clear Lake. My little brother was 24 and newly married. I got a call from my dads latest girlfriend who, of course, I had never met. He had collapsed at dinner, he was at the hospital in Arlington, could we come. I threw on my coat, drove to pick up my brother and his wife and headed out. It took us about 30 minutes to get there. We were too late, he’d had a massive heart attack and they could not save him.
Did we want to see him? Did we want to donate his eyes or skin to the organ bank? Did we have a funeral home to call? Did he have a will? Were the barrage of questions coming at me that night.
Then at his memorial service a week later It was a strange mix. A small amount of family including my brother, a great-aunt, and two second cousins once removed and a cousin of my dads who I sort of remembered who was near my mother’s age. Then my dads old hippy, high-school friends who I remembered from my childhood. My parents married when my mom was 16 and my dad was 18 and I came out not too much later. Then there were his tax protester and jail house buddies; needless to say I didn’t mix much with them. And there were a few of his pipe fitter friends from work, he had recently gotten back into the pipe fitters union and was working and building a house with his new lady friend.
At the reception after the service a man said hi to my little brother, who is the spitting image of my dad, and then asked who I was and said that “I looked like someone from the family“. I said I was Dave’s daughter. He said “Oh, I didn’t know Dave had a daughter” I was tempted to respond ” Well, I didn’t know I had a father” but came up with some lame response and he went back to talking to my brother.
My dad was cremated like his parents, my grandparents, were and would be spread somewhere special. I kept my dad on my fireplace mantle for almost 2 years before we decided where to spread his ashes.
My Grandfather and brother after we had packed on horses up Driveway Butte in the North Cascades and spread my dads ashes.
Kind of ironic the daughter he didn’t speak to or even seem to mention took care of his final arrangements, picked him up from the funeral home and took care of him for the next two years. Oh and paid for all of it too. I guess he got his money back in the end. But I am glad I did, it gave me a chance to tell him a few things I wish I had had the chance to talk to him about while he was here.
Regret gets you no where, but on a constant playback of your mistakes. I have tried to learn from mine and try to never let something go un-said, never at least attempt to mend that fence and always tell the ones I love how much they mean to me.
And most days I remember only the fun happy things about my father. Happy Birthday Dad!
Any regrets you need to let go of or take care of before it’s too late?