Happy Father’s Day to All of Us Whose Fathers Are Dead

September 3rd 2015 was an interesting day for me. It was one day before I was to finish with training on the first real job I had ever had. A job at a local hospital that I had been applying to for 4 years and finally got into. That was exciting. It was also the last day I would ever see my father alive.

I have always had an interesting relationship with death. I went to my first funeral when I was 4 and was convinced I would have to see a dead body. I don’t know where I got the idea that dead people were scary then I just knew I didn’t want to. Turns out I didn’t have to. My next funeral was when I was 10. My great grandmother had lived to be 102 and I was relieved she was finally gone. I knew exactly why I was afraid of her and so was everybody else. Her own son (my grandfather) even bough a Halloween mask because it looked like her. I still find it funny that she had a closed casket.

My family wasn’t one of those who made a big deal when someone died. We had funerals for them and of course memories always came up but there was never anyone who was just so broken up about it that we couldn’t talk about them. It’s still that way really. Part of this reason was because they were all so old I imagine. So I never really had a profound moment of realization that death was just a part of life. I just always knew it. My parents never even hid it from me when one of our pets died. It was just something that happened.

But I think the real reason my parents were so casual about death was because of my father. He had an even more interesting relationship with death. He always said he knew since he was a little boy that he was going to die when he was 65. I thought that was an odd number to pick and moved on about my day. I think I was 10 the first time I heard him say that. It wasn’t really out of character for him to say something like that. In fact, it probably came with some backstory about why he believed that but I don’t really remember. All I ever have remembered was that he always knew he was going to die when he was 65 and I, as a ten-year-old, thought that 30 was the end of your existence anyway so it didn’t really seem like a real number.

Throughout my life my dad and I had an interesting relationship too. I look like him. I don’t think my mother had anything to do with it really. Even my baby pictures and his would be indistinguishable if not for the film quality being 30 years apart. As I grew up I took on his sense of humor and whenever we could we did things together that were so different to what me and my mother would do together that I remember almost all of it. He was also the one who taught me most of what I know about proper English usage which was probably the best thing for it considering my mother came from somewhere called Rockfish.

By the time he died he had been sick for a while. That in itself was a shock because we always expected my mother to be sicker first. But he surprised us with a stroke and heart attack in 2012 and then another one in 2014. But we still weren’t prepared for his death in 2015. Even the night that he died I didn’t know was supposed to be his last night on Earth. The doctor’s had set him up a place in Hospice and the last I heard was that he had another week before the countdown was really on.

I was home alone when I got the call exactly at midnight on September 3rd 2015. It was my mother who called. She was at the hospital with him and I went down there. It was, for some reason, the first time over the past week that I hadn’t felt guilty for not being there. He wouldn’t have wanted me to feel guilty about it. I also didn’t take any time off work afterward which I’m sure is a sign of a future psychotic episode. But what was I going to do? Sit around at home and cry and feel useless? He definitely didn’t want that. I told exactly 2 people after the fact: My trainer at my new job the day I was leaving training and she tried to make it about herself by saying “Oh, you’re breaking my heart!” like I had just said I was thinking about killing him and not that he had died; and my grief counselor who never said anything mean but certainly needed to fix her face when it came to judgmental thoughts.

I can laugh about it now because the first lesson I learned after he died was that everyone’s grief process is different and no one else understands the details so you may as well keep it to yourself. Which I suppose is why my family never shared any details about what they were really feeling. But also why it’s just better to remember someone through stories about their life. At least in that way you’ll help others understand why you miss them so much.

Oh and, by the way, he was 65.

Happy Halloween! I mean, Father’s Day.

P.S. If your dad’s not dead, call him, it’s Father’s Day!


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