The Day My Father Died

I knew my father had died 3 years before he actually did.  He had been having health problems, none of which were life-threatening,  and a long, overwhelming bout with depression that neither psychotherapy or drugs could cure.  My mother had gone out to eat with a friend, for a break, and she asked me to have dinner with my dad to keep him company. I remember we went out to an Italian restaurant he had always liked; he ordered risotto.I don’t’ remember what I ate.

After dinner I went back with him to the apartment that he and my mom shared. Knowing his love for music, particularly “Der Fledermaus”,  I suggested we put it on. He didn’t want to. I was absolutely shocked and I had no idea why; I didn’t understand.  I grew up in a household where “Der Fledermaus” a Viennese operetta was played so often I could sing portions of it myself. We lived in an apartment house and I could hear the music the minute I stepped off the elevator and all through the hallways. I remember ringing the bell and no one would answer, not because they weren’t home but because you couldn’t hear the bell over the ridiculously loud and embarrassing music. Often, my dad was seen conducting the “orchestra” with a pointer, whistling happily and in perfect pitch.

This operetta had always been his joy, his one sure thing. He loved this music so much that it was a part of his soul.  After much persuasive nagging and encouragement he finally  put it on the stereo.  The stereo that had arrived in 1,000 tiny pieces that he and I had put together many years ago, one bolt, one screw, one piece of lumber at a time.  With the music on now, I thought his mood would definitely brighten.  It didn’t. I wanted to do anything that might make him happier, to see even a ghost of a smile.  I asked him if he wanted to dance, remembering how he would beg me to dance with him when I was much younger.  He stood there.  I looked at him, incredibly naiive, and said” you used to love this music,” “It always made you so happy!” and he replied slowly” I  don’t feel anything anymore.”  I looked in his dull blue- gray eyes and saw no joy, no hint of happiness, I saw nothing.He turned and took the record off the turntable with robotic movements.

I asked him how long he wanted me to stay and he literally looked at his watch and said I should leave at 10pm even if my mom wasn’t home.It was 9:45pm.  I couldn’t believe that he even looked at his wristwatch, another Holy Grail for him, that he would coordinate, to the second with a voice recording on the telephone, but he did.  He didn’t want me there anymore. When I hugged him good-bye, he looked directly in my face and said “when you leave here, be happy.” The utter shock of that statement, along with the night’s experience, felt like a ferocious blow to my stomach and had shattered my heart. I remember twisting the doorknob and leaving, splaying myself on the outer wall, I was crying so hard I could barely breathe.

It was a memory that to this day, 8 years later, I cannot forget. My tears are rolling down my cheeks so fast now that I can’t take a breath, my crying is loud and the pain is raw. I told a friend who had just lost a parent, that it got easier, with time; now I feel like I liedto her.  It doesn’t get easier, it just seems that way because the grief wells up less often.  I can literally feel my own dull red, pumping heart being smashed into  pieces all over again, not that it ever healed perfectly.  You tell people it gets better, it gets easier but does it?  Your life becomes BEFORE and AFTER and there is no turning back.When my father really died, a friend actually introduced me to “the club.”  “A club, she said, for people who have lost a parent.”  I didn’t want to be a member of that club, but it is true, no one else understands what it’s like until you experience it yourself.  I cannot stop crying, I sob into the old, faded beige handkerchiefs my dad used to carry. I hold my body with my crossed arms and I rock back and forth, back and forth until the time I get so tired, I curl myself up into a little ball and, still crying,  pray for sleep.

Dedicated to my dad : November 13, 1923 – December 31, 2002

8 thoughts on “The Day My Father Died

  1. What a gripping and sorrowful thing to have gone through Laurie. Here I am at 43 and I have never really lost a close family member. My mom/dad are still alive. My maternal grandparents are still alive…and its that grandmother that I am so very close to, she is 90…when its her time to pass I will literally fall to pieces…she practically raised me, as my homelife was quite abusive at times. She also helped me raise my children. She is my hero. But anyway, I got lost there for a sec! I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. So sad, that he stopped caring about much so early…I can see my grandma kind of starting to do that now, and it scares me to death. Beautiful, yet heart wrenching post Laurie…thank you for sharing.
    tammy

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  2. What’s wrong with you??? nothing!! You just need to remember to breathe… don’t hold your stress in your shoulders and neck (that’s what I do).

    And here’s another blog for you to read… she’s really funny:

    http://thebloggess.com/?p=4669

    Hope you are doing okay… I’m thinking about you!

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    • A) my arms and shoulders and neck are all STIFF and achy B) I am a depressive-type of blogger C) I LOVE the blogger you turned me on to, she’s hysterical D)I think I bookmarked her but I don’t know what that means E) want to go to Japan?

      Love, Laurie

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  3. Wow…. that was heart wrenching… you write so beautifully. I can feel your soul and your heart in pain. I am so sorry for your pain. You have so much going on now, I hope you have someone you can lean on. I felt the pain in your writing, it literally filled my heart with tears for your pain. I wish there were words to help you through this, but I know you have to go through the process. I hope that writing this blog is helping. It seems to help me a lot. Just like a release…

    Remember… don’t hold your breath, breathe in….. and out.

    I don’t know if it would help, but maybe if you started writing down some of your family history to pass down to your children that would be cathartic for you (if it hasn’t been done already). You could start writing about your childhood or your dad’s childhood when you have time here and there. Don’t make it a big project so it adds to your burden, just something you can do here and there… or it can be part of your blog… turn your grief into something positive…

    I’m a scrapbooker, I do a lot of collages for people. That’s what made me think of it. I hope you are sleeping, that’s the most important thing right now (talking from experience!).

    Thinking of you, you’ll be in my prayers tonight…

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    • hi, thanks for the comments. yes, i did fall into a deep, troubled sleep. i was a mess while i was writing it but afterwards felt better. this story has been inside me for 7 years now and after i finally wrote it-i felt a release. like i had finally done it even though it was really hard. you do scrapbooking for people? HOW funny. I have made collages for people. I made a magazine/book for my neice, nephew, son and daughter when they turned 13. the first one I made for my nephew was pretty simple, by the time my daughter turned 13 it was really much more complicated. i LOVE doing that. maybe you can tell me about scrapbooking tho i know what it is. thank you again, my loyal reader. i wish some magazine would publish something I wrote but esp. the one about my dad. I have NO clue on how to submit things or if it is good enough to even send. it’s nice having someone that believes in you. again, many thanks.

      Love, Laurie

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