Sep. 29th, 2011

awfulhorrid: (Celtic Knot)
My Dad died this morning. I don't really want to write about his death, so much as I want to say a few positives about his life, but I guess I have to write about both. It wasn't entirely unexpected - this was his forth fight with cancer. (Possibly 3rd, since this could have been what they didn't catch the last time. I guess it really doesn't matter all that much either way.) Still, he wasn't showing signs of getting worse or anything, so this was a bit of a shock. I'm really glad that we got to visit with him a few weeks ago, even if it was a pretty short visit.

My childhood and teenage memories of him are ... well, let's call them patchy. Some are good and amusing while others are pretty depressing and difficult. He was an alcoholic and a Vietnam vet who most definitely suffered from PTSD. He physically, mentally, and verbally abused both me and my Mother, especially when he was drunk - a state he was in quite a lot at the time. With all this, I guess it's not too surprising that once I left his home, I didn't really speak with him for a bit over a decade.

At some point, once he'd driven away two wives, several girlfriends, most of his friends, and me plus the rest of his family, he finally decided to get help. He got into Alcoholics Anonymous and sought help from the VA. He really cleaned himself up, became a spokesman for AA causes, and helped others. I'm more glad than ever that he did this and that I was able to reconnect with him as an adult. My only regret about that is that I wish he'd done it about 30 years earlier: it would have made for a much better childhood for me and my mother.

I'm still learning how much we actually had in common. Some things are a bit more obvious, of course. I can absolutely credit him (and my mother too, actually) for instilling in me a love of history and reading. I was somewhat amused a few years ago when he figured out the exact nature of my polyamorous relationship to learn that he had been part of a similar relationship, although perhaps not quite as open about it. I can credit a lot of my love of pirates to him. I learned a lot more mechanic skill from him that I actually remember, and while I can't remember how to repair a transmission, at least I know how to use the tools safely and I'm not afraid to get dirty. While mine was not exactly an ideal childhood, I still fondly recall making things with him: model rockets, various automotive projects, and a black powder rifle are the ones that immediately come to mind.

He had a strong artistic side, too. I think I'd actually mostly forgotten that until our last visit. I saw some of the large cartoon drawings on the back wall of the garage and remembered him making those about 25 years ago. Though they were cartoons and not caricatures, I could very clearly identify the subjects on which they were based even all these years later. I remember some of the wood carvings he'd do with a knife or sometimes with a chainsaw. Although I'm not quite ready to try anything with a chainsaw, I think some of the things I've tried to make with my Dremel tool might have their origins in those carvings. (I also wonder if he might have been continuing something he saw his father do, but I guess I'll never know now.)

He was quite clearly a Dog totem too, although in his case I suspect closer to a hound dog than a Newfoundland like myself. I've already made sure to ask if his dogs were going to be cared for now. They're going to stay with Grandma, both for her to look after and to look after her.

Today has been mostly scheduling things, making lists of what needs to be done, answering the phone, and just dealing with one thing at a time. Tomorrow we fly to North Carolina for a few days. Dad chose cremation, something else we have in common, although I'm a total organ donor so that'll come before the cremation. Therefore there won't be a funeral, but there will still be a memorial service. I'm not quite sure what I'll say, although writing this has certainly given me a few thoughts.

Dad, I can't say we always got along, but I'm glad we were able to reconnect when we did. I do love you and I'm glad you were part of my life. I'll miss you.

February 2013


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