After four rings, it went to voice mail. I quickly left a message and wondered if it would be returned. I had no right to expect it to be and if it was going to be returned it could be anytime in the future. Twenty minutes later my phone rang…………
“Hi Kath, it’s Dad. I’m so happy to hear your voice. I can’t talk right now as I am at work, but I had to call when I saw it was you. Can I call later?” “Whenever you get a chance, Dad, I’m home all the time.” “OK, I’m so glad you called. I love you so much. Bye” “Love you, too, Dad, bye”
That was my first conversation with my Dad in over a year. In fact, the last time I saw him was at my Mom’s wake in November 2011. I wasn’t sure that he would even show up, but something told me he would be there. I even had some old pictures to give him if he showed up as I realized that when my parents separated when I was 12, he didn’t get any photos. My sisters and I had been going through the old albums while we spent a lot of time with Mom in her last few weeks. There were so many pictures of his side of the family, that I felt I had to take a few along with some holiday photos from when we were young.
At my Mom’s wake it was quite busy and I was at the head of the line, even though I have an older sister, but I was basically stuck there with a chair and my walker. I caught him out of the corner of my eye the minute he came in. He made his way through old neighbors and friends and nervously came through the line. My older sister, Anne, and her family have kept in touch with him so he was relieved she was right there to greet him. The next obstacle was my younger sister, Donna, who had so much baggage from my parents that it wouldn’t fit on a jumbo jet. My sister opened her arms wide and hugged him tight. That’s when he started to cry. He moved onto John, her husband, then Dave who hugged him and I was the last one before Mom.
I moved the walker out of the way and held onto him as I felt his skinny body shaking and could smell the cigarette smoke on him. I whispered in his ear that I had something for him and would give it to him when he was leaving. I took him to re-meet his granddaughters and meet their boyfriends. I left him alone at the casket. He couldn’t stay – it was too much. So I reached in my bag and pulled out a package of pictures and handed it to him saying, “I have a lot more that you need to catch up on.” He cried some more, I said I would call him soon and he left.
I did call him, but it was the week after Christmas 2012! I know I didn’t have the best of years, and it’s not like I didn’t think of him. It’s just that this is my BIGGEST flaw – I despise making phone calls (and I get that from him). Just to add in a little more info here, before my Mom’s wake, the last time I had actually seen him was seven years ago at my nephew’s high school graduation party! Oh, he lives 1/2 hour away from me. I have been in this house for 14 years and he had never been in it. So, yes, there is history, there is doing what you believe is best for your family, and there was the lifting of any old anger from these family members once my Mom passed.
My father holds no ill will that it took me so long to call. He is just happy as a “pig in shit” that I did. He is 74, recovering alcoholic, smokes like a fiend, has tattoos, has a pierced ear and loves the opposite sex. He works at a home and garden store fixing machines and loves it. He is not mad that his life did not turn out as he expected, which was to retire to St. Thomas with my stepmother (who died of cancer ?8 years ago). He is not mad that he is tight on money after all those years preparing for his future and having the stock market crashes kill those dreams. He is Dad, Papa Don, as happy to be telling jokes as he is to be listening to stories.
We have talked a few times and he has finally seen the inside of my house. We went out to lunch that day and talked for over two hours. We talked the day of the blizzard “Nemo” where he was telling me that he was going to be headed out after noon to drive around as the government officials in Massachusetts had said to be off the roads by then. He doesn’t care for our leaders and he doesn’t like being told he can’t do something. I owe him another phone call as the rest of February was pretty rough for me. In fact, I am going to call him at noon today and leave a message if I have to because I know he will get back to me.
Life is too short to let the past keep you there. If Amy hadn’t mentioned whether it was okay for her to invite Dad to her wedding, I would have put the call off. Even though they don’t have much of a relationship, she remembers him going to her dance recitals and being at birthday parties and was being a bigger person than I had been. Thank you, Amy. I like having my Dad back in the picture.