My father was a good father. Not the best father. Not the worst father. Not the best husband or the worst husband. Dad was an alcoholic. He was a smoker. He was a toker, actually. In fact, I remember distinctly being asked as a child to help him pull seeds off marijuana stems and using my mom’s sifter to sift out the sticky icky. Once I smelled marijuana as a teenager, I put two and two together and called my mom up and yelled at her for not telling me all these years. Then I had my dad start rolling my joints cause I was really bad at it.
The stories he would tell consisted of his travels to England and his being stationed overseas. “The hash in Turkey is incredible you know. The snow sucked but I was so high that I ran out in my underwear.” He would tell us that during the drills he would talk back to the drill sergeant. He wouldn’t march in line properly so he was punished by having to shine shoes. Upon shoes. Upon shoes. He went AWOL to New York City on his way to Europe all so he could see Grand Central Station. He got in bar room brawls and lived to tell the tales. The ladies loved him and I am sure I have some half-siblings wandering around Germany or London today.
He became a funeral director and was the local go-to for over 30 years. With the job came the house so we lived there and my mother died there. I still can remember each and every corner of the tiny two-bedroom house from the plastic doorknob covers to the little eye link chain that locked the only bathroom’s door. I left as soon as I could at the age of 18 and never moved back home. My brother never left.
Eventually, I stopped chasing the career path I was on and gravitated towards the path for which I was meant. I enrolled in Mortuary School in the Spring of 2017. I am in my first year, still, and love every moment. Dad was pissed because he said I make more money with the job I have. I told him that would only be the case if I did not own my own home and invited him to be my advisor and first employee. He laughed and accepted. I would get good luck texts and would call him after I left night-class to brag about something I knew that no one else did simply because I’m the daughter of a funeral director. He would critique my work and compliment my efforts. Everything I learned about work etiquette and ethic I learned from him. All from him.
My dad and I had our good and bad. But the past ten years were better than most and for that, I am thankful. Because he was a relentless smoker, like my mother, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012. He had a lobe of his lung removed in 2013 and was on chemotherapy treatment since then. Through hours of injections, magnesium IV drips and scans, he fought with a smile on his face. “We’ll get through this” he would say or text to me. He tried to never miss a Sunday at mass as he enjoyed his time with God and his friends. He would always say a prayer for me. Sometimes he would tell me about it; sometimes he would not. But I always knew.
One of the last days I spent with him at the Palliative Care center of the VA hospital he took my hand in his and said “Sugars, I deserve better”. And for once in my life, I agreed. I used to think he was horrible; always drinking, getting into trouble (I once had to bail him out of jail due to a DUI) and just not being a good role model. I would think he deserved the DUI, the job layoff when the time came, the bankruptcy, the title of widower.
But this time, I held the hand that wiped my tears as a child; the massive hand that wouldn’t spank me because he knew it would hurt; the hand that sealed more than his share of lips, eyes, and caskets-and I cried and told him that he, most definitely, did not deserve this.
A couple days later, I held his hand in mine but this time he and I didn’t speak.
A day later, I lost him.
I told you I would update.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, I anticipate. It will get easier to write about him. But this is it for now.
Hold on tightly.
To each other.