Friday, May 25, 2007

I Am Charlie's Daughter

Or, Damn, I Miss My Dad...

I sat watching Gray's Anatomy last night enjoying a glass of wine. I knew it was a rerun, but no matter, I missed most of the season anyway. In this episode, George O'Malley's father died. It was a wrenching episode. Made all the more so by Christina welcoming George to the club--exclusive to only those whose father has died. George says that he doesn't know how to exist in a world where his father doesn't. Christina replies yeah, that doesn't get any easier, or something along those lines.

My father died in November 2003 of cancer. He was away from me most of my life due to divorce and bitter rancor. When he died, it was as if a part of me died. I was completely unprepared for the depth of my grief, how long it would persist, and how profoundly it would affect my life.

I still miss him terribly. I hate what Vietnam did to him. I hate that he is dead. I hate how he died. I hate that I didn't get to say good bye. I hate that we took tomorrows for granted, even though we knew he was sick. I love that he introduced me to big red Bordeaux wines. I love the way he said "Love my girl" at the end of every conversation. I love hearing his mild drawl in my mind's ear. I love that he loved my husband. I grieve that my son doesn't know him.

Upon his death, my father left me a tremendous gift: a very large extended family. Were it not for his brothers and sisters and all my cousins who welcomed be back to the family that I had been so long without, I think I would have been lost. I finally could be among people who looked like ME, who were of a similar character. It was the most affirming experience of my life. While I wish life had been different, that my family wasn't so fractured for so damned long, I can't spend too much time in that place. It would tarnish what I have now, and be a gross injustice to my father.



Marty: said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. I see from your own post that you have much more personal experience with war than I do, and I really appreciate your insight.

Dwight said...

Thanks for sharing that story, RP. My own father died in 1986. He was only 54. He died of a heart attack. Only a month before he got a clean bill of health from the doctor (supposedly, as far as I know).

Here's the sucky part - I found him dead. He had remarried and his wife was visiting her parents in another state. She called me at 3:15am (I'll never forget that time), frantic, saying she could not get a hold of him. She asked if I could go check up on him. It was only a 20 minute drive. All kinds of horrible thoughts went through my head on the way over.

When I arrived, the house was totally dark - no lights. I heard Rusty barking, a little, but he sounded muffled. He must be upstairs. Why isn't my Dad waking up and turning the lights on? With my extra key, I let myself in and called out, "Dad?" several times. Nothing. The barking stopped. (Rusty probably recognized my voice.)

I was spooked - very much afraid of what I might find. I turned the lights on as I went upstairs toward to master bedroom. I opened the door and there he was, lying on the bed. I turned the lights on and, at first, it looked like he was merely sleeping on his back, exhausted. The next thing I noticed was that he did not breathe. I called to him and cried harder at the same time. Quickly approaching his side of the bed I noticed that his eye lids were slightly opened. I knew. I heard myself saying, "no, NO," but I don't recall if it was aloud. I desperately felt for a pulse, deeply hoping there would be one, even a faint one. He can't die! But he did.

My parents divorced when I was about five. My father was a fun guy, very, very intelligent, interesting, sociable, and admirable. He took us water skiing and swimming a lot at my Aunt's house (his sister's) down the shore each summer. I rebelled and came back to him as a teen. But shortly before he died, I told him he was my best friend. He was. Like I said, thanks for sharing you story, RP.

Holly said...

The third paragraph on missing your father is beautiful. That is what honoring the dead is about - remembering, as completely as possible, those who have passed and loving them still.