I’m pulling an old one from the archives here guys… originally posted on May 19, 2010… I don’t know why this time of year reminds me of him so much… I guess because he loved when spring finally arrived because it meant we could be back on the water. I hope you enjoy reading!
My Dad and Me, 1968
My third birthday, it was kind of special. This was 1968, and in Florida a miracle had occurred. We were connected finally, to Interstate I-75, and this was our “rest area”. We had my birthday party here, and it was a fun day. Mom and Dad and I all dressed up and celebrating my third birthday.
I can only imagine how my mother felt when the phone rang that morning in 1978, just 10 years later. All of her hopes, dreams, and plans changed in a single ring of the telephone. For years to come my mother will have issues answering the phone, and the duty will shift to me when I am old enough.
I cannot fathom the depth of fear, heartache, and loneliness that phone call must have delivered to my mother. On the other end of the phone? My fathers boss… his news, an accident. A really bad accident. One which necessitated my father being airlifted to the hospital. In a time when that was reserved for only the most severe injuries. This phone call never should have been made, he should have gotten in his car and gone to my mother. He could have sent the sheriff, or called my uncle, or anything else… but he called her to tell that her husband might die before she could get to the hospital.
She went, straight to the hospital they told her he went to, but he wasn’t there. He was too severe, they said, transferred to the trauma center down the road. My uncle met her on the steps leading out, together they went to the other hospital.
Together they received the news. My father’s brother and wife stood in the emergency room and heard the news nobody should ever have to hear… Nothing they could do, brain injury too severe, blood loss too great, chances of survival were nothing to begin with, husbands brains were scrambled eggs… The last statement from the attending ER doctor, broke my mother.
My father, the intelligent, hardworking, fun-loving, heavy equipment mechanic with 20 years of experience, a wife and young child was gone. His brain function totally destroyed in an accident that didn’t have to happen.
I arrived home from school on the bus, my pastor and my mother’s best-friend met me at the stop. I knew before I ever got in the car something was terribly wrong. Nobody every picked me up by my grandmother or neighbor. Where was my grandmother, my mom, my dad? What had happened to my family??? I was terrified as I climbed into the backseat of that car… and heard the words that would break my heart and change my entire life.
Your daddy was in an accident at work today, and even though the doctors tried very, very hard, your daddy was just hurt too bad. He didn’t make it honey, your daddy has gone to be with Jesus.
I couldn’t, wouldn’t, believe the words coming out of their mouths. They were lying. I wanted my mother, what had they done with my mother… take me home, now…
I walked into my grandmother’s house moments later in a state of disbelief. My uncle was the first person I saw, he was crying… something is wrong. Mom is there next to him, she’s crying too – so is my cousin. Grandma is in grandpa’s lap, and she’s crying too… tell me this is not happening… tell me this is not the truth. Why is everyone crying? Where is my father?
I don’t know when she arrived, but soon I felt my best friend at my side. Her hand gently slipping into mine and leading me out the door, to the woods, through the brush, over the rocks – safe! Safe in our fort in the woods, safe to slip a cigarette out of the carefully hidden stash… safe to sort out the lies with a comfortable friend.
Why would they tell me this, what possible reason would they have for wanting to hurt me this way? Maybe daddy was just mad and left – and they want to forget about him. But I’m not going to forget – no matter how much they might want me to… I will not let him go, he can’t leave me… I just turned twelve three days ago, he can’t leave me now.
Quiet sobs in the twilight, voices calling us… come and eat something, the bugs are out come inside… Honey we need to see you are okay, please come on in and talk to us…
Slowly, making my way out of the bushes, best friend holding my hand. Surrounded by love and family, crying and asking why… taking each breath as it may be my last… pain so deep my heart hurts.
Days go by… people come and go, they hug, cry, speak softly and don’t ask questions. Food comes in huge quantities… I don’t know where it all comes from, or why… I don’t want it, see it, or taste it when forced to eat. My fathers sister comes and takes my mother home, we sleep in the same bed for weeks.
I cannot return to school, to all the friends who have fathers – who do not know death, who have not lost what I have. I cannot handle their stares, their sympathy, or their happiness… my world has been destroyed, while theirs is still complete. I founder and fail at everything I try – school is a mystery to me – a separation from those I love, if I am here, how can I be at home protecting my family? If I am not there someone could die.
Summer finally here, and the houses are sold belongings packed. My fathers things I did not keep have been given away or sold… my mother and I walk through our house a final time and say goodbye. One last look at the corner where he and I sat watching Star Trek and M.A.S.H. each week… One last tour through the horse pasture where he taught me to ride a wild man-hating pony… one last look at the woods, hills, and valleys I knew as home. A final good-bye and a tearful look at the last place I felt whole and complete – the last place I felt undamaged.
Florida, summer all the time, sunshine and water. Beaches, palm trees, sand, surf, and sun. A mountain girl on the beach…
Fresh start, new school, new home, new neighbors with kids my age. Family surrounding me, people who knew and loved my father as much as I.
Learning to live again, learning to laugh and enjoy again… living without him. laughing without him. dancing, smiling, singing, growing, loving… without him
Aging now and living each day as if it could be the last, dancing like no one is watching, singing like no one is listening, loving like I’ve never been hurt… lessons learned at a tender age carry through and shape a being.
I am who I am because he died like he did – it all started with a phone call.