In Loving Memory of My Daddy-O
“I love you and I’m proud of you.” This is how my father ended every conversation I remember us having on the phone. If we were in one another’s physical presence, he would add a hug and a kiss on the cheek. My father was born December 22, 1946 and unexpectedly died on February 15, 2014 at the age of 67.
I write this entry on March 3, 2014, two and a half weeks later. I found out about his death around 6:30am on February 16. I have been working on a cruise ship since September of 2013 and am only able to check phone messages a couple of days a week. I turned my phone on that morning and had two voicemails. One of them was from his wife and the other from a number with no name attached to it. I listened to the latter first to hear the voice of my dads’ daughter from his first wife. Her message urgently asked that I call her back as soon as I could. The message from my father’s wife was similar in content and tone. My thoughts ran to him being in the hospital with possible complications due to his diabetes, something that has occurred in the past. I called my sister first and in as soft and nurturing of a voice as she could give told me that our father had passed away. I was surrounded by several dozen crewmembers as we went through immigration procedures on the ship. I quickly made my way out of the line I had been standing in to get away from the crowd and found myself in a corner. I thought that I might hear her say that he was in the hospital because he was sick, something that would imply that he would at some point be out again once things were figured out.
Thinking back, it’s remarkable how a room full of people can shatter into silence. All I could hear was my sisters voice as she explained what she knew had happened. After I hung up the phone I got back in line to get my passport so I could get through immigration with one thought in my mind; “when do I fly back for the funeral?” There had not yet been any plans made until I was contacted because my sister and step mom wanted to know if they should wait for me to get to Kansas City before they started making plans. My father and I had never spoken about arrangements for his burial, possibly because I didn’t live there and since he was married I assumed he and his wife would have discussed plans for that. I was currently in NY and the next port of call would be in two days in Florida. I found my company manager and spoke to him, explaining the situation. He suggested that I get off the ship that day so that I would be more reachable than if I were on the ship. After he spoke with personnel all necessary wheels were put into motion for me to get off of the ship that day. It would be another five hours before I walked off the ship and in that time I cried, called family and packed for my departure. After speaking with my sister, we agreed that they would call me when they had funeral plans set and after that I would make my way to KC, staying in NY in the meantime.
I made my way through the rest of that day as a body in space. Since my room in my apartment was being sublet, I went to my boyfriends’. I had not yet told him what had happened because I couldn’t decide if I should tell him in person or over the phone. In person was the default because I hadn’t called him before. I waked into his apartment with my luggage, which was not the norm. He asked why I had it and I told him. My time in NY was full of me processing the reality of my fathers’ physical absence in my life. Some days I preferred to process it alone, other days I would spend quality time with friends. Whatever it was, was what I needed it to be and I am blessed to have friends to call on for support that gave it freely, openly and in their own unique ways. I knew that I would not be able to deal with it by myself and I didn’t have to. I wasn’t afraid to ask for help and that allowed people to offer it.
My fathers’ funeral is only the third, maybe fourth I’ve been to in my life and he has been my closest loss. At his funeral there was a portion of the service where friends and family could get up and share thoughts about him. I didn’t plan on speaking, but when I was moved to share, I did. I shared how my father had made mistakes in his past, many of which he carried with him until he died. He had deep regrets for the type of father and husband he was when he was younger and on several occasions he would share this with me. Once I was able to forgive him for the choices he had made I was able to tell him that he had only done as much as he knew to do and that when he knew better, he had done better. For all of the things I may have wanted from him as a child that I didn’t get, I can say that the one thing he has given me with abundance is LOVE. My father did not grow up learning how to express love in any direct way; he had to learn it over time. In the last eight years I saw my father grow in his ability to love himself, others and also accept their love. In today’s world it is not often that men directly express their love to anyone, let alone to another man, related or not. Now imagine a man raised in the 1950’s and the type of social conformity that possessed. That is why I consider my fathers’ expressions of love to me such a gift. I have never had to wonder if he loved me because he never went a conversation without saying it and for a man whose actions for so many years did not always express love, to have him speak it, was something wonderful and special to me. When I became an adult I wanted our relationship to become more than it had been and over the past eight years it became just that. It became the relationship that I’d always wanted with him. He was more than just my father. He was also my friend and support when I needed it and I was able to be that for him when he needed it.
Some may say that he was taken too soon and for them that might be true. What I can say is that I am grateful for the time that I got to have with him, good, bad and ugly. I have learned from both his faults and his successes. I won’t see him again, but I will always know everything that I need to know from him; that he loves me and is proud of me. I love you and am proud of you too Daddy-O.