Friday, July 25, 2008

My Father

Nina's loss has gotten me thinking about my father's last day here on earth.

I was 11 years old, and I woke up in the morning and went to feed my hamster which we had purchased at the store not long before. I was utterly surprised when I discovered 5 baby hamsters in the Habitrail with her. I ran down the steps hollering that I was a grandmother. We then decided to call my father to give him the news (my parents had split when I was 7).

I called my dad and was telling him about the news, but he wasn't making much sense. I put my mom on the phone. She listened for a moment, and then she kept saying, "Jule. Jule! Julian!"

So she bundled me into the car and we rode over to his apartment to check on him.

She made me wait in the car while she let herself into his apartment. She was in there for about 10 minutes, when a police car came to a stop right behind us. The policeman went into the apartment too. I was wondering what was going on. Daddy was a cop, and it might have just been a visit coinciding with ours, but I wasn't sure.

An ambulance then arrived. My mom came out of the house and told me that my dad was very sick and had to go to the hospital. At this point the policeman came out of the house to drive me home. I sat in the back seat, worried about my dad, but asking the policeman about all of the gadgets and gizmos in his car. He turned the siren on for me for a second, and that was cool. When I got into the house I went about my business, hanging out with my grandmother and waiting for my mom to get home.

Mom didn't get home until after dark. She walked into the house and sat me down on the sofa. She said that there was something she had to tell me. Then she said the words, "Daddy's gone."

I couldn't comprehend at first what she was talking about, and then it dawned on me. The anger was immediate. I ran over to the Christmas tree and started attacking every present he had given me that year. It was January 15th, 1983. His 47th birthday had been January 5th. His presents were still under the tree too.

My grandmother was crying in a corner. I started crying finally, but still held on to my anger. I was PISSED. How dare he do this to me.

The funeral was planned, and one of our concerns was that at that time there were no black clothes out there for an 11 year old to wear. I'm sure that by this day and age things have changed. We found a black velvet skirt that I wore with a white turtleneck, and I proceeded to go to the viewing. During this entire time my mom had to be heavily medicated with Buspar, because she was falling apart on a regular basis. She was drugged at the viewing as well.

When we got there I noticed an honor guard at the casket on either side. They were posted there for the 24 hours between the day of the viewing and the funeral the next day. Full dress uniform. It would have been impressive if I hadn't been so miserable.

I went up to the casket to say goodbye and noticed that my dad didn't have his glasses on. He ALWAYS fell asleep with his glasses on, so it looked totally foreign to me. I wasn't happy with it at all.

The next day my father was buried. They gave him a 21 gun salute, and as they removed the flag from his casket and folded it they handed it to my dad's mother. She turned and handed it to me. I still can't bear the sound of rifle shot.

A few months later I found my mom crying in her room. She told me that she had lied to me. She said that Daddy had already been dead when we arrived at the apartment. His will was lying out on his bureau, and when she found him he had a smile on his face. The reason we had gone over to his place was because when my mom had spoken to him that morning he had kept repeating the same word over and over again. "Xanadu." It had totally freaked her out. She couldn't even hear the word anymore (the movie was then out) without crying.

I told her that in tales Xanadu was the ultimate paradise. Maybe he had seen what was coming. Maybe he had been making a request.

Regardless, it took 20 years for me to get over my anger. On the 20th anniversary of his death I decided to just let it go. 

The autopsy said that he had died of Emphysema complicated by malnutrition. My father essentially starved to death. Apparently people with emphysema have no appetites and can't eat. The ironic thing is that when we cleaned out his apartment we found the kitchen packed full of food. He had at least been trying.

So that's my tale for today. I hope everyone has a lovely Friday, and a wonderful weekend.


Em said...

Oh, Julie... I'm so sorry. How awful. You were just a baby (11 is a baby to me now that I'm an old woman anyway).

Dagny said...



Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Julie. Thank you for sharing this.

Karen Cupcake said...

stalker coming out to comment...(sent here via mermaid musings & nina)
my daddy was 42. I was 12. And to make matters worse my best friends father was a police man and had been shot & killed the friday before. We went to the funeral that monday. My dad died that wednesday.... fishing on a boat. OF a heart attack. I ask you..what the hell makes you die of a heart attack on a BOAT fishing???
I feel it with you girl.....

some of my siblings are STILL Not acting right.. and that was 1979. I had to let it go... and I did that in 1999. Been much better since!!!

Thanks for your story...

jennyquarx said...

Oh, Julie. I am so sorry.

Big hugs.

Julie said...

Thank you everyone.

squirrelgirl said...

Hugs to you Julie. I lost my mom a few years ago and it wasn't easy even as an adult. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it was for you as a child.