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September 29th, 2013 was a day that started out like any other day in my young post-grad life. I was about two months into my first “real job.” That weekend was particularly stressful in so many ways, though. I put on a bachelor party for my best friend from college that was highly successful despite almost burning down the cabin because no one cleaned out the grease traps in the grill. I got home from the bachelor party and took a well-deserved nap.
Upon waking up, I noticed I had something like seven missed calls. My father had surgery the prior week and I remember distinctly saying after he came out, “glad you didn’t die.” These thoughts flooded my mind as I saw I had a few voicemails. Deep down, I already knew that something had gone wrong and my dad was dead.
I’ve been mulling this article over for many years. It’s not exactly a happy topic as most of the things on this website are dealing with dating advice, debauchery we all thought we’d grow out of and trash TV topics. I always have tried to write things that were more personal because that’s just who I am. Writing was and is a cathartic type of thing, even though the first article I ever got published nearly three years ago was about shitting my pants at work.
I come from a blue collar family. My dad dropped out of college to work with his brothers at the family hardware business, something he’d done since he was able to count. My dad would have been much better served finishing his last year and a half of school and becoming an accountant, but that’s another story. As with many blue collar families working blue collar jobs, my dad wasn’t the healthiest and the effects of Home Depot and Lowe’s running a small family business of 50+ years slowly into the ground weighed on him, literally and figuratively. He stress ate and ballooned to a pretty large size. Gastric bypass was supposed to be the cure, but surgeries aren’t always cut and dry.
You always think your parents will be there for you until they aren’t. My dad and I were quite close and we talked on the phone at least four days a week. It takes a while to get used to the fact that unless Elon Musk creates some sort of machine, you’ll never spend another moment on this earth with your deceased parent. There are still fleeting times when I see something and get the urge to call him, only to remember that I can’t. On one particularly low day, I called his old number to hear his voicemail, only to find out some middle aged lady in New Jersey was wondering why I called. I just apologized and told her, “Sorry, wrong number.”
There’s honestly no playbook for when your parents pass. It is one of those things in life where you can have someone explain to you how it feels, yet until it happens to you it’s a phenomenon that cannot be learned because each person has a different experience and coping methods. My dad loved music and has a massive vinyl collection, the only thing he owned that I wanted. Sometimes if a song he liked comes on the radio, it causes a stirring in my being which leads to breakdowns at inopportune places.
Growing up, we had to beg and plead for a dog. One day, I brought home a German Shepherd from Cincinnati that someone dropped off at my then girlfriend’s place of work. He was terrified of men but he and my dad formed a deep bond. I remember after a few drinks one night, my dad tearfully told me we never had dogs because it was too sad to lose them, not because he didn’t want any. When my dad passed, Sam was never the same. He passed a few years after my dad, but enough to give my mom closure.
A lot has changed in the four and a half years. My mom lost her house. She apparently has a new boyfriend which has been about as fun to think about as slamming my dick in a car door. My dad will still show up in my dreams from time to time, occasionally to yell at me for spending money, other times to go do things he’d never do in real life. I’ve learned to try to keep in touch with my mom more. She’s grown a lot since then as well. I noticed it the last few times she’s visited that she’s getting older although we’ve actually never had a better relationship.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about Ed. It could be from small things, like hearing an oldie or making a steak. You never really realize how alike you are to your parents until they aren’t there, like they manifest themselves through your behavior. I have nicknames for just about everyone I know. Like my dad before me, I’ve been on a first name basis with my parents since I can remember. I can bullshit with the best of them and I’ll always be thankful of my dad’s insistence to serve others. Tank, Mrs. Madoff and I, along with my boss and his daughter, will be spending this Valentine’s Day at the nursing home.
One day, if you haven’t already, you will lose your parents. I’d trade anything I own for a few more minutes with my dad. I kick myself for all the times I gave him a hard time about his weight, knowing I can never apologize although I’d like to think he forgave me. The best advice I can give is to know when to be alone and when to be with people. Do things that keep their memory alive. Call your family and always, always tell them you love them whenever you see them because you never know if that’s the last time. My dad had a three hour wait to get into his funeral because so many people showed up. I heard stories about him I never knew. I’m sure you’re out there somewhere, driving that old ‘95 Cadillac Fleetwood in the sky..