My father died.
No, no – hold on. Don’t offer condolences – or congratulations. “It’s no big deal,” I keep feeling (though I have been polite enough not to say it except to a couple of close friends). And in many ways – it isn’t, though it is, and should be.
COVID + Old Age (he was 87) did him in.
He’d been in a nursing home for the past four years, maybe a little bit more. We HAD to put him there for his physical health. (His mind was fine, right up to the end.) He wouldn’t obey the rules or take care of himself at home – gobbling all of his pills in a fist in the morning, not eating right (he had a stupendous sweet-tooth: his form of breakfast was usually sugary cinnamon toast and sweetened coffee. For lunch perhaps a bag of candy.)
And he wouldn’t use his walker. His balance was shot; had been for a long long time, and after falling and injuring himself enough to be taken to the hospital every few weeks my mom & our family had had enough. Plus there was that whole medicine thing.
He had gotten pissed off because he didn’t get his own way, and he quit taking them for three days straight. And this is a man who clots, has filters in his legs, and is on quite a lot of blood thinners . . . plus his heart medicine.
Needless to say it did not go well. Like me he’s a big man – tall, not too thin, and wrestling him off the floor? My days of wrestling with him are long gone; have been ever since I was a child who pinched him one day and saw how this man who’d given me so much brutal physical pain could not bear even a little pinch from a 8 year old child.
At the nursing home he wasn’t much different – still a womanizer (of sorts; he just like and was fond of & physically affectionate with women), and still ignoring the rules, only they were documented this time.
He fell often, wouldn’t use his walker, so much so that the nurses and staff complained to me about it.
“There’s a reason we call him ‘Dick’,” I’d tell them. (His natural name is “Richard”, and ‘Dick’ is a common nickname for such folks.) They’d hoot & holler, but everyone in our all so small family agrees: He could be a dick sometimes, and quite a big one.
Oddly enough (but predictably enough) no one cried at the funeral, not even his wife – my mom.
Mother has dementia, by the way, with a side of Alzheimer’s – quite strong. She’ll ask the same question or repeat herself twenty times in five minutes. She’s on the phone all the time – nothing to do but worry, and she seeks it. Anything to worry about so she can feel alive . . . everything to worry about.
“Okay, get up. That’s enough hogging all the attention!” she’d teasingly say to him in the coffin. No – she knows he is dead. But “that’s my momma!”. Either cursing, raging, or inappropriate (sometimes). She’s always been that way – a psychotic paranoid, capable of some extreme violence and emotional threats & damaging to children. I know it damaged me ‘some’. After all, I had nightmares for 48 years, starting (that I remember) when I was just 4.
She’s like a child with measles picking at all her sores. Anything comes up; her brain farts sometimes, and she’s on the phone and on it.
Fortunately she’s learning not to call me. But she still does. Sometimes five or six times, fifteen to thirty minutes apart, asking the same questions, still lost in the answers.
And nobody will cry for her, either.
ALL my ‘friends’ and families from a long time ago – even my own! My wife! – have been massively confused, but strangely accepting . . .
They are all Southern, raised Southern Georgian, where the widows always collapse in a state of tears and presumably helplessness, and the kin, especially children, are in tears (especially the women) – everyone going around hugging one another.
Well, there were a lot of hugs, but no tears being shed. Tremendous amounts of food were delivered to the “after party” (as I thought of it) at my mother’s (who moved to be about 4 miles away from me after living over 800 miles away . . . goddammit).
As I told them: “It’s like he’s gone TDY (military training) – only this time he isn’t coming back.”
They bought it, and accepted it, and I recognize it as part of being a casualty of being a military family. I’ve rarely seen any tears at them. A lot of civilians really don’t realize the level of depth that sacrifice is. By being born into a military family I only had 3 people I recognized as family at all: me, my brother, and parents. All others were always hundreds if not thousands of miles away and most have always been strangers.
Ditto the same thing with friends. Though, to my and some other people’s credit, there are 2 families who’s friendships have lasted since my youth: other families who became ‘part of ours’ through friendship & adoption over time. Only one of them is military. (Military must love military; there’s no other way around it. We are all family ‘in there’ and out of it. Those who have been in it know what I’m talking about.)
We are a stoic breed, my family, and the military one beyond it that extends around the world. You get “used to it” or at least the idea that a loved one (or even if not loved, normal to be around) is going to be gone a long time, even, perhaps, forever.
And so it is with him.
No tears and just a sigh of relief.
and now I have to wait for my mother. 😉