When I was seventeen my family gathered to Fresno, California for my sister’s second and most anticipated wedding of the year. The only one of us not in account was my eldest brother. Work the treacherous life of an adult. My sister and are beyond close, regardless of our age difference of 11 or so years. She was twenty three for like five years in my head so the math is fuzzy either way age gap and we are tighter than tight. But that’s not who I am writing about.
Very excitedly I walked past the hall that was to my right when I heard the bathroom door open and I turned to see my father walk out the door. He had his hands in his pocket of his dark brown slacks, wearing penny loafers and a polo. Thin Gray hair sat on top of his head and grey mustache that would always tickle my face when he’d lean in for his kisses. His dark worn brown eyes that showed the many adventures his soul traveled if you looked long enough, and his nose identical to mine to remind me who I came from. He has dark skin and big hands, clearly labored. He came forth to embrace me for a hug.
“Dad have you gotten shorter and or am I getting taller” I said. Realizing I remember my father being much taller but it had been awhile since we last saw each other about a year or two prior before my mom remarried and moved me out of the Sunshine state Florida to The Beautiful state Alabama.
My father closed his eyes slowly and that let out a breath as if he needed to be mad aware of progress of getting older. He opened his eyes and said, “Just you.” But the next thing that popped in my head was an alarm the thought and realization that my dad is getting old and he’s not going to be around forever.
When I was in school the one thing I would brag when the teacher would go around the classroom and ask you to give one fun fact about yourself, mine was my dad.
“My dad is 66 years old.” I was ten at the time.
The whole classroom would erupt and jaws would open it was my favorite thing to shock everyone with. People would constantly ask, “Really? How old is your mom?”
Which then I’d reply, “There is a bit of age difference about twenty years.” It would get them started all over again. Loved to say my dad was a “Stud.”
But at that second that I saw my father I realized I won’t be able to brag about it. And how much of a “fun fact” it really wasn’t, just meant I’d lose my dad faster than the norm. I told myself I would call more and try and see him more.
A year later in March my family gathered once again but this time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to attend my second oldest brother’s wedding. Everyone accounted for. Again excited as ever I walked up to the church that my brother was going to get married at meeting with excited friends and family. The wedding about to start and still haven’t seen my father. The ceremony starts and the line of people start walking down the aisle. And there towards the end my father walks in. Immediately my heart sinks and I grab one of my family members and say, “Oh my God he’s got a cane.” Clearly able to see the difficulty it was for him to walk. And I can also tell he had lost quite a bit of weight. More alarms went off.
After the ceremony everyone went to the gardens on the side of the church for pictures. That is when I caught up with my father and linked arms with him and asked, “So do you think you’ll walk me down the aisle one day?” and with sad dismay I got an answer any eighteen year old didn’t want to hear.
After returning from my brother’s wedding that March I had moved out of my mother’s house still a junior in high school. But when I moved out of my Mom’s I moved in with an older man. Now don’t think he’s the reason I moved out and went and gallivanted off to be frilly and stupid. That’s not the case at all my mom loved my boyfriend and thought I’d even marry the guy. She’s the one that told me to go for it. Regardless it’s not what my mom thought it’s what my father thought.
Dun Dun. Dun. (Lightning strike and thunder for dramatic effect)
It took me a while to tell him I had moved in with a guy at first it was just a friend. And we were, I wasn’t lying to my father we actually didn’t date till later. But then I finally told him yes were together. You don’t understand my father is a huge Christian I mean almost bible thumping but it’s only because he really believes in a fate so terrible that why would he not tell his loved ones if he knew he could save them. Anyway so you can only imagine the awkwardness and anxiety of having to tell your father you moved in with a guy. And I never heard the end of it. Living in sin was tossed around a lot.
But he lightened up and came to terms but he kept in constant contact, so much that when I didn’t hear back from my father I knew something was wrong. My father started having heart complications and ended up getting hospitalized multiple times and that’s enough stress in itself. But no that wasn’t enough for my father he would be in the hospital have surgery and then call us! Yeah uh thanks dad. I told him countless times how much strain and worry he puts me and my siblings through because we are all so dispersed. I got so worried and him having been hospitalized I knew I would have to go see my father and soon. So I dragged my boyfriend and little brother down to Florida on Labor Day weekend to see him because if not now, when?
He embraced my boyfriend and was very happy to see us. But I remember going seeing his living conditioning and thinking Holy Shit my father can’t live here in this small closet that smelled almost toxic. My dad isn’t a messy person it was just the condition of the place itself. I told my sister and being that I am a senior in high school, working part time and living with other people, living with me was out. My sister has better means and a better location weatherly for an old man she quickly and graciously invited our father in her home in October. She’s always understood and been closer to my father out of all of us. So it felt right in the end.
With finishing up senior year the most anticipated event happens, high school graduation. I wanted as many family members to be there, it was almost monumental for me because I would be the first child out of five in my family to fully go through and graduate high school without break. So of course I asked my father if he was going to come. I was on the phone with him and this is the answer my father gave me.
“I will come to your graduation if you marry.”
What! Seriously? But I came with a good enough promise.
“I will get engaged after high school but I won’t get married for two years.” My boyfriend at the time and I did discuss this before about getting married and he was older so he was ready to settle but was I? But that’s a whole other story.
“We’ll see.” Again with the crappy answer. Ugh. I just wanted him and my sister at my graduation.
In the beginning of January I got a call from my sister saying my father had a stroke. They were anticipating partial recovery but then sadly informed us the best they could do is make him as comfortable as possible.
January 28th, 2014
Snow apocalypse is what some Alabamians will say happened on that chaotic day but my view of that day as everyone was going crazy trying get to their homes or even just a warm place to stay is quite different.
I remember being at school (not doing anything) and hearing about snow fall in other parts of Alabama to begin to happen and as I was sitting in my classroom I knew it was going to snow. I had to get out of there before the crazy. I hate driving in the snow I had never done it and driving in Alabama is scary to drive as is. Luckily my school was smart and gave us the permission to leave so I did as soon as they announced it I was first out of the parking lot and you could already begin to see the snow starting to pile up on the edges. I called my mom in desperation to calm me on my drive home. She spoke to me the whole way to my apartment. I was just pulling in when my mom said she had to go my sister was calling her. I got out my car and over looked and saw the most beautiful blanket of snow covering everything around me. I breathed in real deep and smelled the air and smiled and thought how strangely peaceful I felt.
A couple hours later I finally went on my Facebook, I saw someone had written on my wall. A family member related through marriage and one I had never met in person in my life wrote four words:
Sorry for your loss.
I knew right away who she meant and I couldn’t believe I had to find out through Facebook! And not by someone I know I might add. Someone knew my own father was gone before I did, a stranger practically. And then I thought about my sister interrupting my mother’s and I phone call and then I remembered how peaceful and beautiful the snow was and realized I didn’t get to hear that my father was gone, I felt it.
I look back on that now and realize that my father knew his time was coming and that’s why he wanted those moments I think, but in my head he wasn’t leaving till he was in his late 90’s or when Jesus comes back for the second coming. My father always emphasized that God was going to have his second coming before he departed. My dad was going to live forever. I could see my time with him slipping before my grasp. It wasn’t fair. I had realized all my life I’ve watch my father slowly die and looking back every time I denied him a huge or kiss or a moments of my time it makes me feel worse.
And even though it hard to talk about, my tears and memories are what keep him alive and near to me. My father lives on in his MANY children and he was quite an amazing man but another sad truth is I hardly know. I probably only know the tip of this wonderful and adventurous man. But he’ll be forever missed. But his legacy will go on.