In my several months of blogging, I’ve rarely (read: once) written about serious subject matter. I’m aware that people come here in hopes of reading something that will cause them to spew Mountain Dew from their nostrils or urinate on themselves. If I can provide either of these things, then I have succeeded…in blogging, in life, and in general. I pride myself on controlling other people’s bodily functions.
However, with Father’s Day commercials taking over the airwaves, it’s put me in sort of a funk, and I’ve decided to write about it. This isn’t my style, but you know how us writers are. We have to write what we feel, and I’m just not in a very funny mood.
I don’t like seriousness or sadness because I associate those things with pity. Pity to me is a pitiable thing. So, with this post, I’m not asking for pity, I just feel like getting all of this out.
So, here begins my “tears of a clown” post. For those of you that are going to stick with me on this post and finish it to the end, I thank you for patiently reading my story.
My life was forever changed on Sunday, November 22, 1992. I was 11 years old.
My mother was the pianist at our church, and although I wasn’t feeling so great that Sunday morning, she had to go to church, and I stayed home. I was lying on my stomach on the twin bed in our guest bedroom and ironically enough, I was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on channel 24. I know it was channel 24 because the picture had a weird fuzzy tint to it.
My daddy didn’t go to church on Sunday. My daddy played golf on Sunday. Actually, my daddy played golf everyday, but he was always up bright and early and on the golf course before my mama and I made it to church.
That Sunday was no different. Daddy had been playing golf that morning when I heard him coming in the kitchen door. He passed the guest room where I was watching George Bailey and stumbled into my bedroom at the end of the hall. He never said anything to me, so I got up to see what was going on, and there he was, lying on his stomach on my bed, moaning in pain.
I called out to him several times, and he never replied. He got up from my bed, gripping his chest, anguish on his face, and then he collapsed beside me on that stupid blue carpet in the hallway. Damn that stupid blue carpet.
I remembered the old folks at church describing a heart attack like “an elephant sitting on your chest.” I knew this had to be the problem, but it just didn’t seem right. My father was in his early forties, tall and skinny as a rail, and heart attacks were for grandfathers and people who ate meat for dessert. It just couldn’t be a heart attack.
When my father fell to the floor, my puppy (a Lhasa Apso named Peaches that I had until I was 25. That’s a totally different sad story), snuggled beside him, and I rushed to call 911. I told them my daddy was sick, and then I called the church and left a message with some lady that my mother needed to come home immediately.
I looked at my dog lying with my father, and she knew. I knew, too, but I just couldn’t accept it yet.
I picked Peaches up and ran outside. I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed to get away. We sat inside my daddy’s truck in the driveway, next to his golf clubs, his crumpled pack of cigarettes, his Beatles cassette tapes, and we waited on the ambulance.
Instead of running away, I now wish that I had gotten down on the floor with my dog and my dad, held his hand, and told him a million different things.
The ambulance arrived, followed by my mother and her best friend, and soon paramedics were wheeling my father out of our living room on a stretcher. My mother’s best friend stayed behind with me.
I don’t remember what we did while waiting there. I kept hoping my mom would call and say it was just indigestion, a gallbladder attack, something mundane. I was waiting for my daddy to walk through the front door and say, “Sorry for scaring you, kiddo.”
Instead, an EMT walked through my front door, without knocking. I remember this man, tall and heavy and bald, dressed in his navy paramedic uniform, waltzing through my front door and telling my mother’s friend that he was back to get the resuscitating equipment that was scattered around in the hallway. My mom’s friend asked how my daddy was doing.
As casually as saying, “Today is Sunday”, the bald man replied, “He didn’t make it.”
Did that man, whose face I can still see so clearly, realize that he was the one to break the news that would devastate an 11 year old girl and completely change her world, her life? I doubt it.
I turned and ran to my bedroom. I called my best friend, and I sobbed into the phone, “My daddy is dead.”
I don’t remember anything else about that day, except watching “Sister Act” in a daze, while friends and family sobbed around me. To this day, I hate Whoopi Goldberg and that stupid movie.
Before my mother married my father in 1979, she was married to Mr. Charles. Mr. Charles was my brother and sister’s father. He was actually friends with my daddy, he and my mother remained friends after their divorce, and I was always around him because he was my sibling’s dad.
After my father was put in the ground, I remember standing in my driveway, in a stupid black velveteen looking dress, and Mr. Charles wrapped his arms around me. I buried my head in the pocket of his black coat, and I cried. Neither one of us said anything, but I will always remember that moment as if it was confirmed that he would be my father figure for the rest of his life.
He couldn’t replace my daddy, no, but at that moment he became my godfather, and he lived up to the title more than I could have ever hoped. He gave me away at my wedding, he was there when my children were born, he loved me like I was his own. We would talk on the phone for hours, and I would laugh at stories about he and my mother in high school, stories about he and my daddy, stories about some crazy midget western that always came on Turner Classic Movies.
On September 12, 2011, my sister sent me a text asking if I had talked to her dad that day. My brother sent me a text asking the same. My mother called me, too. We all tried calling Mr. Charles’ house, but got nothing but an answering machine.
A little while later, I kept expecting that phone call from him that said, “I fell asleep in my recliner watching TCM. Sorry for scaring you, kiddo.” Instead, my mother called and sobbed into the phone, “He’s gone, baby. Mr. Charles is gone.”
Cruel heart attack had struck again.
I was in such shock that I hung up on my mother and raced for the stairway. I remember which step I was on when I lost it and tears poured from my eyes, my stomach felt sick, and my head was spinning. I ran to my husband’s office upstairs and fell into his lap, tears streaming, my fist beating his chest and shaking my head “no” because this couldn’t be true.
I wanted my mother’s arms. I frantically drove to her house so that I could feel her arms around me, the only place that could make me forget my grief, when I began to cry so hard that I could barely see the road. I told God that He could take me then. Of course, I was blinded by my sadness and not thinking clearly, but I remembered the depression and reality that hit me days after my daddy had died in 1992. I couldn’t bear to go through that again.
Mr. Charles had been my father since the day my father died. He was there at every holiday, birthday, cookout. He brought the ham, the steak, the chili. My heart would light up when he walked into my kitchen. I was in love with his funny stories, his funny laugh, his big hugs that pulled me close the way it did so many years before in my driveway on that cold, November day. Instead of burying my head in his coat pocket, my face would rest on his shoulder now, as he patted my back and kissed my cheek.
And after both of my fathers were in the ground, I came home and wrote a short story about them meeting again in Heaven. And I smiled. Here is a short snippet:
…and after the old man was reunited with his family and friends in Glory, he saw the girl’s real father, whom he hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years. The father ran to the old man down a street of gold, and he took him into his arms.
“I know what you’ve done. Thank you,” the father said.
On Earth, the people mourned the loss of two wonderful men. But, their loss was Heaven’s gain.
|I added this for some comic relief, but I’m pretty sure
MY two dads could have whipped these two guys’