I’m Not a Mourning Person

Posted: August 13, 2015 in Random Thoughts
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My dad died two weeks ago.  I went to work the next day, as usual.  I’ve wondered why my dad’s death hasn’t bothered me as much as I thought it would — all I can come up with is that while I was growing up, my dad was a mean cuss.  I watched him beat my stepmother in a drunken rage, when I was 14.  I watched him smack my sister in the mouth for talking back to my stepmom.  I watched him hit my stepbrother several times.  He came after me once when he was drunk, but I was quick and stayed out of his reach.  I spent my high school years staying out of my dad’s reach.

I remember the time he told me he couldn’t wait until we kids turned 18, so he could get rid of us.  I left home when I was 17, joining the Navy, and distanced myself from my dad for good.  For about 35 years, we would go for months without talking to each other, and spend our short phone conversations talking about the weather and what we were watching on TV.  When we actually visited each other, I was always reminded we had very little in common.  My dad and I had become strangers.  Dad changed in the last few years of his life.  He seemed to have mellowed and wanted to hear from me more often, but the distance between us was always there.

When I went back home in June, I was struck by how different my dad had become.  He was having memory problems.  I bought him a tablet to use for using Facebook so he could keep in touch with the family, but I had to explain to him many times just how to unlock the tablet (just place your fingertip in the circle and slide it to the side).  I read him some messages he’d received on Facebook, and he chatted with his brother for a few minutes.  He really liked that, but I knew as soon as I’d left, he would never use the tablet again.  And he didn’t.

A month ago, I received a phone call from dad’s current wife, Barbara, who told me he was in the hospital, close to death.  My sister pretty much said the same thing, so I cancelled my work trip and drove back home as fast as I could.  He was alive when I arrived two days later.  When I talked to the nurse about him, they said he’d had a fall and had pneumonia.  I’d received a different report from my sister, but he seemed to be unconscious, which fit what my sister’d said.  So, I pulled up a chair and sat with him for a while.  He seemed to have lost a lot of weight in the month since I’d last seen him, but I figured it was because of his illness.  Then he stirred and noticed me, and began talking.  I moved over to his bedside and began talking with him.  Some of the things he talked about didn’t make sense, and something just didn’t seem right.  His nose looked different.  I went outside to the nurses and told them I didn’t think that person was my dad.

Turned out, it wasn’t.  My dad had been moved into the room next door.  I glanced into that room while talking to the nurse, and recognized my dad right away.  He was awake, pleading with anyone who would listen.  He was in a lot of pain and wanted pain medication.  I went into his room and talked with him, but all he had on his mind was his pain.  I asked if he’d like me to hold his hand for a while, and he said yes.  After a short time, he looked at me at then changed his grip to shake my hand.  This was when I was sure he realized who I was, because we always shook hands when we got together.  But, as soon as we shook hands, his mind was consumed with his pain again, and that’s the last time my dad even knew I was there.  I visited him four more times before I had to return home and go back to work, and he was never again awake while I was there.  I took four days to drive home, and was home for four days before receiving the call he’d passed away.  Hearing the news was like hearing a distant relative had died.

And I went to work the next day, like usual.

I’ve always wondered why I don’t cry and gnash my teeth when learning about the deaths of people I know.  Maybe it has to do with losing my mom when I was 8.  Maybe it doesn’t.  She was the last person I ever cried for.  I think I’ve purposefully kept people at a distance ever since.

When my wife of 24 years (someone I dearly loved) said she wanted a divorce, I didn’t cry.  Apparently I kept a distance from her, too.

I’m not a mourning person.

And yet, I say that knowing I cried like a baby when my dog, Doogie died and when my cat, Mouse passed away.

Today Barbara called and told me she’d interred his ashes at a veterans cemetery and had given him an Air Force military funeral.  I talked with her for about a half-hour.  I can tell she really misses him, and sometimes I wish I missed him more.



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