Today marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death.
I always knew, early on, that with being the only child of an alcoholic, I would one day get that dreaded phone call and that everything would then fall on my shoulders, but I hadn’t expected it when it came.
As one could imagine, there is a lot of back story, but to make a long life time story short, I hadn’t seen my father in 10 years. The last time I had seen him was at my great uncle’s funeral in October of 2001. And he was drunk.
As one could imagine, any type of contact with him was very sporadic. In the beginning of 2003, he was contacting me a lot. By the end of 2003, that contact had stopped. In fact, from the end of 2003, until I hunted him down in the summer of 2005, we didn’t talk. I “found” him in summer of 2005, to inform him I was getting married and having a baby. He called me every couple of weeks and starting in December when my daughter was due, he’d call me weekly, if not multiple times a week. He continued to call for a few weeks after my daughter was born and then he kind of disappeared again (normal).
Contact became sporadic again. He usually called when he was drunk and would say nasty things so conversations weren’t always that great. I would send him pictures of the kids (that unbeknownst to me he would carry around with him and show them to everyone he knew).
Contact didn’t become more regular again until the beginning of 2011. He actually called quite often and we would talk. There were times he was sober, and those conversations were good. Other times he was drunk and the conversations weren’t that good. But, he was calling to check in with me regularly because I was worried about him (in hindsight, I guess his death shouldn’t have been such a shock). He was having a lot of back pain and it was starting to sound like he might have been experiencing dementia like symptoms.
The evening of May 20, 2011, I was just sitting down to a late dinner with the family. I had eaten half of my sandwich when the phone rang. The number came up as my dad’s, but the voice on the other end was a “friend” of his. I knew.
I was told that “they” went to check on him this evening and found him dead in his kitchen. “They” told me they had been there the night before and had called the ambulance because he was having “seizure like” symptoms, but he refused medical treatment. When they went back the evening of May 20th, he was dead. (It was later determined that the cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver. That’s common when you’ve been an alcoholic for 40 years.)
He was just two months shy of his 56th birthday.
I was in complete and utter shock. I can’t even tell you who I called first. I remember calling my dad’s two cousins – the only people I could think of to tell (and locate) and I remember calling my mom. I remember hubby calling my bestie to come over quick. I remember a local police officer coming to the house to break the news to me (they didn’t know I already knew, but it is standard procedure to have an officer break the news in person in case I would have gone crazy). I can see that night in my head as though it happened yesterday, but I can’t recall a lot of the details.
My dad’s two cousins were such wonderful help to me. I honestly don’t know how I would have managed without them and with their help, I managed to do what needed to be done. This included driving from AZ to Minnesota (kids, hubby and me – a 2 day trip); figuring out all the details; and worse of all, going to his apartment to go through his belongings (and that is another post all in itself, trust you me).
It was the most exhausting, emotional, trying time of my life. Growing up, I would’ve told you that I wouldn’t care when he died, but I lie. There have been days this past year that I’ve gone to pick up the phone to call him (his number is still programmed in my phone) and remembered he isn’t there. Or I took a new pic of the kids and want to make a copy to send to him, but he’s not there.
I am the adult child of an alcoholic, but I was lucky enough to know that my alcoholic loved me. He loved my kids. He couldn’t always tell me because of his disease, but he really tried to show it and let me know in his own way. I just wish I would’ve understand before and wish that I still had more time with him. But, I am almost certain, he is with me, watching over me and my kids. Rest in peace dad.