Two months ago, the second week of April, my older sister telephoned me to tell me that my father had just died. If you go back and read the blog post article that I wrote about this, I said that I hadn’t seen or spoken to my sister since 2001. That’s not completely true, I may have spoken to her less than half a dozen times in the past nineteen years.
I tried to stay away from my father and his girlfriend for the past twenty years after my mother died, because my father’s life changed completely, he started a whole new life. One of the most upsetting things to me about my father starting a whole new life, is that he soon moved out of what had been our family home. And then he moved to an entirely different state in order to be closer to his girlfriend’s family.
My mother was gone, my family home was gone, my father started a new life, and it was almost as if my life didn’t happen. I remember vividly the several boxes of hundreds of family photographs that we had, me and my sister when we were little, me and my sister with our various family pets, family vacation photos, elementary school photos, photos of my parents when they were young, these are all gone.
At this time, I am not going to make any direct accusations, but getting rid of all of our hundreds of family photos, was one of the worst and most heartless things that anyone has ever done to me. Now that I am fifty years old, and both of my parents are gone, I would like to see these family photos from fifty years ago, forty-five years ago, forty years ago, when my family was young.
There are three things going on as far as all the photographs being gone. First, it was desirable for someone to wipe out the record of my father’s more than forty year relationship with my mother, their life together, everything that they did together, and their children. Two, it made someone uncomfortable having this reminder/documentation around. Three, it was cruel and diminishing to discard the records and memories of other peoples’ lives, though the act itself was quick, easy, and convenient. It’s time to get rid of all this old garbage that’s taking up space, no one wants, and no one cares about. Wait!!!
I have written before, that I don’t feel like I am fifty years old, I feel like I am about eight years old, and that my life has just begun. Everything just happened a minute ago. My memories from walking around as a three year old, being in elementary school, being in high school, being in college, it’s like all these things happened just the other day.
I am explaining this because yes, I would like to have many of these old photographs to look at, to realize and marvel at how much time has passed, but then again, I feel like everything just happened a minute ago, or just the other day.
This is also why I didn’t feel so bad about staying away from my father for the past twenty years, I remember everything that happened in our life like it was just the other day. Going to visit my father and his girlfriend in their subsequent homes would have been like going to visit strangers, only much, much worse. I will explain the difficulty like this, I have these memories about my life like everything happened just the other day, and now here are these two old people who don’t know anything about it.
Similarly, one of the reasons why I didn’t talk to my older sister very much over the past twenty years, is that she remembers many things about our life completely differently than I remember. I didn’t want the pain or irritation of having to argue with my sister about what really happened, and explain to her emphatically all the reasons why things happened the way I remember.
Since my sister was in her mid to late twenties, she has been going to therapists. In talking to my sister when she was in her thirties, I began to hear from her that she was struggling with guilt, anxiety, and apprehension about things in the present and events in the past. It was very apparent to me, that my sister was dwelling on events and situations that were not very significant, and completely absolutely ignoring and failing to remember events that were very awful.
I didn’t know if my sister’s therapists were listening to her describe memories and events freely, then asking her to stop and repeat what she just said, focus on what she just described, and telling her that that is where her problems were stemming from, when in fact this was actually a minor insignificant event. Was this why my sister was misremembering our life, because she was being redirected by therapists, or was my sister just practicing her own selective memory and shielding herself?
So in April my sister called me to tell me that my father had just died, and in the course of our conversation to understand what had happened, my sister told me that she has stage four cancer and was told by her doctor that she will only live for a few more months.
My sister explained to me that five years ago she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had chemotherapy and treatment back then and the cancer appeared to have gone away. But now the cancer is back, it has spread to other organs, they did not catch it in time, and the doctors believe that this will be fatal within a few months.
My sister is fifty-five years old today. My mother died of cancer which she did not tell anyone she had, when she was sixty-four years old. My mother’s best friend Gloria, who was my sister’s mother-in-law, she died of cancer when she was about sixty-four years old. My mother’s other two best friends, Jean and Martha-Anne, which my sister knew very well, they both died of cancer.
So how did I respond to my sister? I told her that I was about to die also. I explained to my sister that a couple of months before my father died, I went over with him that I had made an addendum to my Last Will where I bequeathed my vehicles, trailers, equipment, firearms, and personal belongings that were located here in Dickinson, to several people in Dickinson in order to spare my family members from having to deal with these things here.
My father tried to urge me to go get medical care and surgery, and I explained to him for about the sixth time, that in other states that might be possible, but in North Dakota there is no competent medical care, only hideous, nasty, mean, battle-axe women medical staff, and know-nothing doctors, and that I would rather just go ahead and die than have a torturous death at their hands.
At the time, I didn’t know that my father and sister were just as close or closer to death than me. Apparently my father and I had each accepted that we were probably going to die soon, whereas my sister doesn’t want to die yet. I had asked my father a couple of years ago, and a year ago if he wasn’t having some very bad health problems, because he seemed like he was. My father denied to me that he was having severe health problems, probably to not cause me to worry, and it was just easier for him to proceed that way.
This blog post article is kind of meant to be preliminary background information before I write about my, my sister’s, and my father’s concluding thoughts about life, death, and dying.