This week I found out my dad passed away December 6th. 7 months ago, to the day. My eldest R was Googling him, and came across his obituary. She then messaged me with what she found. It obviously came at a bit of a surprise.
You're probably wondering why, or how, it took me this long to find out, and how come in this way. The short story, there's been no contact between us in 15 years. And my family on that side would have no way of letting me know. (I've moved numerous times, gotten married, changed my name and so had my mom.)
The hard (longer) story, I made the decision 15 years ago to cut ties with him, and his wife. I couldn't handle having my whole relationship with him be dealt with through his wife. My dad was severely dyslexic and his wife was in charge of all his communications, even reading his mail to him. (At least this is the information I was given, and have always believed.) There was no privacy there. And I was not treated with respect or as an adult by her. The last letter I received was very hurtful, and I never responded. At the time it was too much for me to handle.
I tried contacting him twice in the years since, the first was returned, the second I never received a response. I googled him usually a couple times a year, to see if he was still living in the same town I was born in in Oklahoma, and for any other news there may be. And the last time was last fall, a few months before his death.
There is remorse. And regret. I'll never reconnect with him. He'll never meet his grandchildren. They'll never meet their grandpa. I never got to say goodbye or I love you. It's hard and it hurts. My eyes are brimming with tears now.
But I can't live there. I am choosing to try and live in the memories I have. Not a lot of them, but they're vivid.
My parents divorced before I was 2. My mom and I moved to Minnesota, closer to her family. I visited my Dad 10 days every other summer, until I was about 13.
Things I remember from those visits:
~ sleeping on their couch, it had wood arms, cream cushions, and was very uncomfortable.
~ some of his vehicles. A small orange pick-up that he kept a towel on the dash of, to keep the hot sun from cracking the vinyl. A small sports car (maybe a Porsche), that had a switch in the trunk to cut the engine, to keep it from being stolen.
~ going to a dry river bed to search for arrow heads. (My dad loved doing this.)
~ his dud grenade. And his gun safe the size of a refrigerator. (Yes, he was a member of the NRA.)
~ taking me to the Marland Estate outside Ponca City. I'd guess it was circa 1920s, Olympic size pool and little cabanas that looked like castles. Walking there I could imagine the grandeur of a time long ago, children running laughing, the ladies in their full dress swim suits. The color of the paints bright and vibrant. (I believe I got my love of all things old and historical from my dad.)
~ homemade peach ice cream, at my grandpa's.
~ my aunt's trailer, the neighbors had chinchillas in their root cellar. My aunt's feeling homey. Another one of her houses, with a quilt that hung on the wall, made by one of my great grandmothers (at least that's how I remember her telling me it).
~ story books gifted to me by my aunt, from her and my dad's childhood. I still have them. Fairy tales, Bugs Bunny, a Christmas one with a tissue paper tree that popped up when you opened the front cover.
~ my dad always drinking Coke.
~ It's a Small World music box I received one year for my birthday.
~ wanting so badly, a engraved id bracelet one visit, and receiving it for my next birthday. (I still have it today.)
~ watching MASH with my dad, I grew to love that show, and continued to watch over the years. I still like it.
~ watching The Yellow Submarine on another visit.
~ his dirt bike parked on the right side of his garage.
~ swimming in the pool at his apartment in Tulsa.
~ visiting my grandpa, his house with the hot tub bathtub, the peach tree, the bumper pool table that had a cover that made it a dining room table, the autumn drive wallpaper. My last visit he no longer lived there, but lived in a trailer, with his dog, a chow, and the cameras he'd collected. Most prominent, a German camera from WW2, he'd brought back. He'd promised it to me, I never got it, after his death.
~ dad explaining what the funny looking things digging into the earth were, dotting the landscape of Oklahoma. Oil pumps.
~ he was always willing to answer my questions.
~ his accent was thick. It always took me awhile to get used to it and understand him.
~ missing him, wishing to see him, when I was upset. I so wanted to be daddy's girl.
~ my dad served his country during the Vietnam war, as a Green Barrett, a paratrooper, and a medic. He came home and became a nurse, in a time many men weren't, continued to help others.
He was 66 years old when he passed, "peacefully in his sleep at home" according to his obituary.
He is gone. I didn't get to say goodbye, or how much he did mean to me, or even I love you. But I'll honor him and remember him.
Rest in peace daddy. I love you and miss you.