My father died this morning.
Don’t feel bad for me. I’m all right at the moment, although I do appreciate all of the condolences I’ve received. Thank you. I wish my post could be more like my friend Pauline’s, but sadly, I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my father.
If anything, feel bad for him for the judgement he’s about to face. He wasn’t a very good man. We used to think he was an almost decent person until we started learning his history. For me, that education started about 20 years ago with a phone conversation with my uncle (Unca T), my father’s younger brother. I had no idea what I was about to learn. Frightening stuff, but I need to talk about it. You can turn away now if you’d like. It might not be pretty.
I should probably explain who my father was for you to understand that statement. I knew two completely separate people when it came to him: my dad and my father. The former died a long time ago in my mind, and the latter was a man I hardly knew. If anything, I’ll mourn the man I knew as my dad today. My father can face God.
Abi & Umi, 1969
Since my parents divorced before I was six years old, I don’t have a lot of memories of this man, aside from the marijuana growing between the corn and tomato plants in the backyard garden, and his motorcycle that I used to play on. He was even absent back then, but it makes sense because by the time I was old enough to retain those memories I have now, he was already being the philanderer he’s always been. When I was eight, I stayed with him for a weekend or two, maybe even three. Not a lot of memory there, either, apart from his bright yellow convertible Karmen Ghia and he took me shopping one day. I remember driving up to Flagstaff with him and his new family, my youngest brother Siege (he’s a rapper, by the way, hence the name) just a baby at the time. Siege stopped breathing in the car. Dad flew over the hills in a mad rush to the hospital. My stepbrother and I were in the backseat bouncing up in the air every time he’d go over a large bump in the road. Yep, no seatbelts. Of course, when asked, we both lied and said we were wearing them. Great parenting, dad, for not even checking. I guess Akhi stayed home that weekend.
I know that he was a Vietnam veteran, serving as an MP in the Army. What I’d find out that fateful day of the long phone call with my uncle was that my dad killed a man with his bare hands while over there. His time there wasn’t something he liked to discuss, so it took several years to get the story and from another source, I believe. I’ll tell what I’ve heard of it to you now:
While on duty one day/night, my dad’s partner was shot and killed by a well-hidden sniper. They couldn’t find the sniper’s nest. On the second night, the same thing happened. The third night, his best friend was his partner and he was shot and killed as well. In a blind rage, my dad ran toward where he thought the sniper’s nest was, found him, and beat the man to death. It took several men to pull my dad off the sniper and by the time they took a look at the dead man, they’d discovered my dad had broken nearly every bone in his body.
Regardless of the truthfulness of that story, it’s what I heard 20 years ago. Part of me would like to consider my dad a hero, but I know better. Heroes face their responsibilities and problems, rather than run from them. I also inherited his temper, only I learned how to control it. I’m sorry I can’t say the same for my brothers.
He was a man who made many wrong choices in life, but he’s proof that bad people can be born of good people and can also produce good offspring. Unfortunately, there will still be a couple of bad apples falling from the tree in the generations to follow, but not all of us are bad. I know very little about my paternal grandfather, but what I do know is that he and my father didn’t get along very well. Grandpa Dan was away at war when my father was born, and he didn’t return until my father was a toddler. They had no bonding time between them and grandpa wasn’t the bonding, affectionate type. It makes me wonder if my father would have still turned out the way he did if my grandfather had been different toward him. Hard to say and I try not to focus on the what-if’s anymore because there’s no point. My Grandpa Dan (Donato) died when I was six years old, and it sounds like the same thing that killed my father today.
My father did not walk me down the aisle at my wedding in 1995. He wasn’t invited and didn’t deserve the honor of that role. Instead, it went to my maternal grandfather, who was more of a father to me than anyone else, and who died two months before my wedding. My younger brother, the one I call Akhi on here, walked me down the aisle instead.
My father was diagnosed with cancer (the one disease that truly LOVES to wreak havoc on my family) seven or eight years ago, and he went through chemo and radiation treatments. The hospital almost killed him by triple-dosing him with chemo in one day. He went into renal failure. Then, the light flicked on at the end of the tunnel and it wasn’t the train he’d thought was coming. He survived somehow. My thought is that this was his second chance to make things right, to undo or take responsibility for all the shit he’d done in the past. Makes sense, right? Why else would you survive something like that? God gave him an opportunity to atone … and he failed miserably. Oh, he tried to re-establish a relationship with Akhi and me, but for me, it didn’t last long because coming up on four years ago, certain members of my family decided to make an idiotic move and got themselves disowned from the rest of the family because they were stupid enough to make that move against me. This is what I’m talking about when I say “fuck with me and I will end the game in one quick motion across the chessboard because I AM the endgame.” As cousin Lucy (the once matriarch of my big, fat Italian family) once said, “they’re bad people. I never did like them.” She was pissed at my father as well, for his past actions. My father and I had a mutual disownment of one another over these last few years, and I’m okay with that.
His cancer came back with a vengeance, just like I knew it would. Leukemia , very fast-moving and aggressive. It’s been two weeks to the day that I found out about this and they moved him to Hospice. Akhi called him and talked to him even though our father couldn’t talk back, but he never got the chance to go see him due to work. Our older sister flew out from Chicago and spent every day visiting him before leaving this morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m the only one who made no contact with him in this last two weeks of his life. I’ll not regret it. He should know how I feel about him by now. And he should know that I forgave him a long time ago, that I let go of the anger in order to heal myself 13 years ago. I had to. Anger eats away at your soul until you become a bitter person no one wants to go near. Yes, I do have a couple of relatives like that, and no, I don’t consider Unca T one of them. I’ll not write my father’s atrocities in this post, but Unca T has them posted on his blog, if you’re so inclined.
I cried for about two minutes this morning and blew my nose twice. I’m done. He doesn’t deserve my tears anymore.
Now, I have to check on my grandmother because if there’s one thing I do know for certain, it’s that a parent should never outlive their child. She must be hurting right now, and that hurts me more than losing my father.
Thanks for sticking around to hear my story. It probably wasn’t what you expected unless you know me personally and are aware of my relationship with my father.