Eight years ago we saw hope after the devastation brought on by GW Bush. Now we are fucked as a fascist pig has been voted in by a record breaking number of assholes. Women and people of color lose the most, but ultimately all of us lose. Humanity loses when hate wins.
This year he would have been 70. Would things have been any different 8 years later? Would he have been more interested in knowing his daughter the way he knew his 3 that he actually raised? Would he have still been obsessed a la hypochondria or would he have mellowed out? Would he have been honest with me about why he left and started a new family that only included me one week out of every year? Would he have come to my wedding in 2014 (after refusing to come to my first one because “he’d have to take the girls out of school” to drive the 7 hours to walk me down the aisle)? Would he have shown empathy in our struggles to grow our family or told me “tough luck” like he did when I didn’t like something? Would he have come back to Portland when Grandma died and lived in the house he grew up in? Would he and I meet again at Powell’s or walk down the street to the bakery from Grandma’s house and shoot the breeze? Would he have encouraged his daughters to be a little nicer or still rolled his eyes when he talked about me to them? Would he shoot the breeze with Dan? Would he tell me he loved me like he did at the end of every conversation?
Would he recognize the woman I am today?
Most of the great memories are before I hit adolescence. Before he left me for another town to start another family. I spent a year in Colorado to be near him even though he never did the same for me. Fathers are the first example to their daughters of what men are, and for me, it was ‘take what you can get’. I adored my daddy as a girl, and while – with exception of the year in Colorado – I only saw him once a year (at most, as in later years when he retired to Central Oregon I was told I was not welcome to stay in their home unless I ‘slept on the floor’ because even though they had a spare bed, their teenage daughter ‘didn’t like me’ so it was the floor or pay for a hotel 20 miles away since they lived in the country). From 1984 to 2008 I was the afterthought but, knowing nothing else (not to mention having a stepfather who could give a shit about acting like a parent after I moved out at 17) I loved him.
And boy did that fuck up my relationships for a long time. The man who brought me into this world spent more time talking to me on the phone about his 3 daughters with his wife than he did about me. The man who brought me into this world talked more about his health issues than he did about anything else. From a young age he told me about all of his ailments, that he would be fine with dying, and all of his anxieties about everything. I carried the weight of his world on my shoulders, always worried about him, always trying to get what I could during the time we had together. By the time I hit 30, I was starting to wake up, starting to question it all. What man with a good job up and leaves the STATE to move a full time zone away from his child, and then starts a completely new family, where I had to fly by myself from the age of 10 on – including changing planes – to see him once a year? What man leaves his kid? It’s fucked up beyond all recognition to do that. You don’t leave your kid. Period. I was dealing fine with the divorce until then. Then I learned that men leave their families, and you just have to take what you can get.
Or so that’s what I thought.
When it finally all came to the surface, around the time the “sleep on the floor” issue came up, I let it out. I wrote him a long letter about how hurt I was, from him not coming to my first wedding because he didn’t want to take the kids out of school, to his leaving Oregon for Montana and Colorado, to just being sick and tired of being the Afterthought – even though I was his firstborn.
He never responded.
We saw each other just 3 times after that, as he never came to Portland unless it was to see a doctor and I did not have the budget to pay for a hotel (nor did I feel welcome out there because of the whole floor-sleeping bullshit and piss poor attitude of his daughters). I saw him once when he just showed up at my doorstep unannounced one evening, once when he was at my grandmother’s down the street and we took a walk and talked like the old days, and another time when we met for dinner at a family style Italian joint my uncle worked at in the 70’s and the next morning, I insisted on seeing him before I went to work. We met at the now-closed DiPrima Dolci Italian Bakery on Killingsworth for a coffee and a pastry, where the top left photo above was taken. It was the last time I would see him conscious.
A year later I found out from my grandmother that he’d suffered a hemhorragic stroke (nothing like the Kirk Douglas-style stroke where part of your body goes numb…this is more like a sledgehammer to the base of the skull) on October 16th – three days earlier. My stepmother claims to have not had my number which is total bullshit. (As a side note, I found out via a Facebook message 3 years later that aforementioned grandmother died in the hospital two miles down the road from me – my DNA family sucks big time, y’all). So while he went into the hospital conscious, by the time I saw him he was comatose, machines attached to him, hospital gown, barely recognizable. That week, Dr Oz had a show on strokes, I shit you not, and the specialist described that hemhorragic strokes pretty much guarantee death within a few weeks. So I rented a car with the last money I had, grabbed my dog and went back to see him when they took him out of the coma and pumped him up with morphine until he passed. When they had the funeral I had no money for another rental car and yet somehow none of my family would give me a ride. Fuckers. So I went to the burial here in town the following week, and even though my stepmother didn’t want me to speak, I spoke. She has no fucking control over me. I spoke.
This blog was started as my dad lay in a bed at St Charles Hospital in a medically induced coma following the stroke. He was taken off life support and allowed to die naturally a week later, at 1:29am on November 10th. I wrote about being with him when he died, just me and my dog Daisy along with his wife. His 3 daughters wanted to go home to sleep. I couldn’t imagine leaving his side. Someone told me that people inherently choose who they want around them when they pass – who knows, maybe as his firstborn that was what he gave to me. He was there when I arrived, I was there when he departed. I can still smell his skin, I can still hear his voice, I can still remember that moment as if it was yesterday when he stopped breathing.
No matter what, I am on this Earth because of him. I love you, Dad.