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I had a booksigning last week. No one came. But that’s not the focus of this blog. My husband doesn’t have good eyesight and has not read the book. So I have been reading the stories to him. We were sitting there, alone at the booksigning, and I decided to read him a story. And I chose “Waking Dad”.
“Waking Dad” is the only true story in my book. I wrote it about 10-15 years after the fact, so things were kind of blurry. The memories we shared may not have been exactly the same as what I put in the story. But I sent a copy of the story to all of the parties involved when I wrote it and asked for feedback. I got nuthin’. So, either they didn’t read it, or it was acceptable as it was.
In the story, I explain what my sisters and I did on the night my father died. I won’t ruin the story for you, but I’ll try to add to it a bit. I should also add that because it was a memoir of sorts, it doesn’t read like my other stories. One of my beta readers said that my sisters and I didn’t seem close, didn’t seem emotional. Well, we didn’t cry. We didn’t hug. We didn’t comfort. That’s just not how it was, and I didn’t want to add anything that wasn’t true. And as a result, it’s quite possible that people will not resonate with the story. I have decided that this is okay.
Here are a few of the things that didn’t make it in the story.
Dad was a TV junkie. He would get the TV guide from the paper and highlight the shows he wanted to see with a black felt pen. Nobody else watched – just Dad. I remember this from when I was 3 years old, and I think one of my earliest memories of him was that he watched Star Trek.
Dad was also a card shark, and sometimes he would take us with him when he was playing with his buddies. This was when I was 4. One man was in a wheelchair. I was too timid to ask why, but I noticed that nobody considered it a big deal, and over the years, I found myself making it a point to treat people with disabilities as if it was no big deal. Just a part of who they were. I made some interesting friends that way.
Dad showed me how to throw a ball overhand, how to pick blackberries. He got us a frog and a lizard – we could only have pets that belonged in cages. Every once in a while, he would bring home brownies. Major treat.
Fast forward about 10 years, Dad wrote to me while I was in college. He would write a letter and include cut-outs from various newspaper cartoons that struck him as funny. I cherished those letters and that connection to home. He didn’t call, we didn’t talk. But I had the letters.
When I got out of college and was living in Massachusetts, my dad would come to visit every few years. Sometimes alone, and sometimes with his companion/bridge partner. I still remember two girlfriends of mine who were dating each other but were socializing apart in case my father wasn’t “cool”. At the end of the party, my dad had planned to walk them to the car but came back and said, “It was the funniest thing. Two individuals became a couple as they walked down the hall.” And I understood that my father was accepting, and life was easier because I had many lesbian and bi friends. It was especially significant because this was the 1980’s, and the world was not as it is now.
My dad contracted cancer in the late 1990’s and I did my best to move closer while still working for the same company. Massachusetts was a nine-hour drive and Greensboro, NC was 7 hours. A small improvement. I drove up to Maryland nearly every month, spending time with him and an aunt who had breast cancer. But dad’s health failed, and after talking with my sisters, I invited my father to live with me. I had dreams of playing cards together and just being with him, enjoying the few years he had left. In fact, he only had 6 weeks. I remember taking him to a doctor in hopes of continuing his chemo and being told to “take him home and care for him”. So, I did. I was working full-time so I got him a caregiver, and I got some Nancy Wilson music to play, and I would wheel him around the neighborhood – it was late April in North Carolina, so the weather was nice – and sometimes we would head to Taco Bell for chalupas. I cannot say enough about the wonderful people at Hospice. They came and tended to him, helped to bathe and groom him, told me what to do, and told me when he was going to die. And that is how the story “Waking Dad” begins.