Processing The Death Of My Father

I got a telephone call at about noon today from my older sister.  I hadn’t seen or spoken to my sister since 2001 when I invited her and her boyfriend at the time to come up to Flagstaff to visit me.  Her boyfriend had a race the following day at the Phoenix International Speedway, which he won.

I saw the 386 area code show up on my phone when it was ringing, so I figured it was probably one of my family members, most likely with bad news.  When I answered the phone, my sister said, “You can probably guess why I am calling.  Dad died this morning.”

My sister explained the circumstances of my father’s death.  He had not been in very good health this past year or two, he suddenly got much worse two weeks ago, Hospice care was called in, he was sedated with morphine, and he died.

My sister quickly continued, saying that due to the coronavirus, they aren’t having any funeral or memorial service, and he didn’t want one anyway.

So, I realized that my father had gotten very sick, and no one had called me to let me know.  And, I was told that there was no reason for me to come back to the east coast where everyone was.

There are several reasons why things were handled this way.  A few years after my mother died in 1999, when my father was about 64 years old, he began living with a woman who he had dated in high school.  She had been widowed a few years before my mother died.

My father and his girlfriend lived together for the next twenty years, and they got along pretty well together.  She had two adult sons who were married.  My father had me and my sister, who were not married at the time.

So my father began a new life with another woman, who had had her own family.  My sister, and especially me, were not that big a part of my father’s life anymore, especially since I had moved to Arizona, Idaho, and North Dakota, far away from the east coast.

One of the reasons why I was not called to let me know that my father was very sick, was because I was far away.  Another reason was that I had been absent for a long time.  Another reason was that I was not that big a part of my father’s life anymore, especially in the minds of his new family.  And lastly but most importantly, no one wanted to deal with me.

As far as other people are concerned, in their minds, they had legitimate reasons for handling the situation this way, especially because it was easier for them.  For instance, I might have had an opinion, or questions.

For me, I mostly feel like there is nothing that I can do about it now, and that there is nothing that I could have done.  Still, I think that I would have liked to have been informed so that I could think about and process what was going to happen, and then make decisions about what I should say or do.

In a way, I feel like I was cut out of my father’s life.  I don’t know if this was done to be deliberately hurtful or diminishing to me, or if it was just done out of convenience.  If my father’s partner was too tired and distraught to talk to me while this was happening, which I believe that she probably was, I wish that someone else would have been asked to contact me and let me know what was happening.

The last time that I spoke to my father was two months ago.  I tried to call my father one week ago, but he did not answer his phone.

There are many reasons why I stayed far away from my father and out of his new life.  In order for him to move on, to make changes, to be close with his new partner, to build a new life with her, I stayed away.  I was conscious that I would have been a reminder to both my father and his partner about his previous marriage, his previous family, and his previous life.

I could see myself not always getting along with his new partner, disagreeing with her, and finding out who he was going to be loyal to.  I didn’t want this to happen, I didn’t want there to be any competition for loyalty, trust, or importance.  I knew that ultimately he would be much better off keeping her, than being loyal to his own children who were now grown.

I very, very much regret that I didn’t have a family home to return to.  I so much wanted to just go home.  I wanted to return to my childhood home, just to be back, to think about childhood memories, and see everything again.  But I think that one of the things that was deliberately done, was to first move out of my family’s home, to get my father out of the house where he had lived with his previous family, and then get him to move to an entirely different state.

I know that my father was a consenting and agreeing partner in making the moves that he did, but it got my father further and further out of his old life, and into his new life, which he himself may have wanted.  But for me, my childhood home was gone, I could never return to it.

Visiting my father at his new home in a different state, actually “their” home, would have been the same for me as visiting some old couple that I know in their home.  It wouldn’t be my home, and I wouldn’t even be welcome there for more than a couple of hours, because they were old, didn’t have much energy, and would be burdened as hosts.

This is in contrast to visiting your biological mother and father in the family home that you grew up in, where you could go back to your old room, and probably stay forever without getting kicked out.  There is a big difference between being welcome somewhere for a few hours versus being welcome to stay forever, because they are your parents.

So I never went back, because I didn’t want to cause any problems or be around to cause any problems.  This was like losing a parent, but I knew that this was for the best.  However, I don’t like what feels like re-writing history or dismantling the past, where my father’s previous forty year marriage didn’t happen, didn’t matter, and is irrelevant in comparison to his most recent twenty year relationship.  But the reality is, this is what has happened, my father’s new family is handling everything.

I don’t envy having to arrange and see to the burial of my father after his death, nor handling the legal proceedings of finding and paying all his final debts, legal filings, tax filings, submitting insurance paperwork, and disposing of his personal property, while at the same time becoming choked-up and overwhelmed with memories and emotions.

To me, this feels like a dismantling of my life.  I remember being a very young child, with a mother, father, and sister who were all very optimistic and looking forward to their life ahead.  As we all got older, we had difficulties, struggles, and disappointments.  I saw the demeanor of my mother, father, and sister change as we became older.

There came a point after my sister was divorced, had moved away to Washington D.C., that didn’t work out, she came back home, my mother and father were in bad health, not doing well financially or professionally, then my mother died, and I could kind of tell that this was the beginning of the end, though I had no way to know this for sure at the time.  From that point on, it was all down hill, none of us ever had the same optimism and enthusiasm that we once had.

Since that time, it seems like every single thing has just been being taken away piece by piece.

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