My Dad died last week.
It was his 59th birthday and he was grilling his birthday steak out on his deck when it happened. I can just see him too. I bet he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the cool summer evening, maybe a pullover fleece thing as well while sipping on a rum and coke in a short glass, slowly melting ice cubes clinking against the sides. He was probably having a smoke while he cooked too, one of those crappy Benson and Hedges Menthol 100s he had switched to, probably while half-leaning against the rail of the deck and listening to the Royals lose on TV. A night just like any other.
Then he went down and that was it.
I don’t think we’ve heard back yet, but it was probably a brain aneurysm due to high blood pressure (otherwise known as: The Hansen Way) or maybe it was a blood clot resulting from a long flight, but whatever, it doesn’t really matter; it was sudden and sounded pretty quick. I got the call on Monday night and it all went exactly like you would expect it to. My little sister, the Wild Child, called, but Little Ms. Super Cute Wife and I were heading out for some errands, so I let it go to voicemail until I got home and when I heard her voice, I just knew. Stupid things occurred to me right away, I wondered: Did the meat burn? When did his drink get dumped out? Is it still sitting on the picnic table? Then I immediately started thinking about how, at the wedding, he re-told me the story of Grandpa Bill showing up out of the blue and how they went to lunch and had a good time and Grandpa stopped right before he left and said: “I love you” and how that was the last time he ever spoke to his Dad. And afterwards, after calling The Wild Child back and trying to make plans and walking in circles a bit, I thought: What was I doing when it happened? Was I really weed-whacking while my Father died?
After that, I felt like I was in a holding pattern, wading through a slow morass of waiting and daytime TV, helpless, unable to move forward, unable to get through; ready to go with nothing to do…
When I was there, it was the little things that really stuck: his computer was still password protected, the “just walked away” way the work stuff was spread around his desk, the bowl where he put his wallet and glasses and smokes every night, it was all still sitting there, everything neatly stacked. His glasses were really smudged and I polished them with my shirt and then I stole some of his smokes… His presence was still there, clichéd sounding as it is, it was like he was just in the other room, just about to walk back in…
Here, now, on the other side of things I’m glad to say that I don’t feel a whole lot of regrets, besides the expected stuff of course. The wedding was in June and it was a fantastic time together and I had talked to him on the phone since then in our usual short and to-the-point phone conversation manner. We had e-mailed back and forth that very day, maybe only… 4 or 5 hours before he died. He even mentioned those steaks… I’m glad I got to say Happy Birthday.
But it’s been a pretty rough week, as you can imagine, I went down there to God damn Missouri over Labor Day weekend and now I’m back again, back to work, back to my life, and it’s getting better, but you know… I rushed down there as soon as I could for my Step-mom and the Wild Child. And people gathered. There was food and talk and all that. Dad went out in style. He always loved the movie The Big Chill, so we played the Stones “You can’t always get what you want”. It was nice, for that kind of thing, there was very little outside drama. Grandma Hines took a bit of a tumble, but she’s fine, thankfully, but other than that, it was calm. There was a little bit of discontentment in the crowd with the Born-again Preacher running the service, but shit, when a random God-person is needed in a pinch… beggars and choosers and all that, I guess…
You end up occupying a weird place during these things. On one hand, it sucked. But on the other, it was really nice being with all those people: Little Ms. Super-cute Wife, of course, and J-town Jason, a pair of more supportive, wonderful people you couldn’t ask for, I don’t know if I could’ve even gotten down there without them. Mr. and Mrs. Jungle Woody were there, who I’m always glad to see, so was Mr. B and Lindsay Loves NKOTB and lots of others and it was just… nice. There was some laughter and some late (very late) night drinking. It was sad, but it was good. Like they say: It’s too bad it takes a death for us all to get together. All in all, I felt better coming back home, riding the light rail back from the airport with Little Ms. Super Cute wife was like a big exhale, like I was sliding loose of a gray haze.
We went to a Twins game that night and watched the Royals lose. Dad would have just shaken his head.
I love my Father and I miss him very much. I’ll miss his voice and his laugh and the way he killed at Trivial Pursuit. I’ll miss the way he crossed his arms and leaned. I’ll miss him.
A rough week, but it’s getting better.
So, to all of you who went or sent flowers or just their love, before, after, during, now or later… thank you very much, it’s very appreciated. I know that maybe I don’t talk about it that much with you, but that’s just my way, so thanks for understanding and trust in the knowledge that your support was sorely needed and relied upon. Thanks.
I’m okay and I’m getting better.
So, what next? Well, for the next few months, I’m going to be distracting myself with friends and with my writing, and Little Ms Super Cute Wife, of course. This whole blog went on much longer than I originally anticipated, because it started out as just a list. I was going to write up a list of all these silly little inconsequential things that I’m looking forward to, things that’ll help me feel better, but… eh… I’ll do that some other time.
Until then, though... there's this:
Take care, kids,