I can't escape the nagging voice in my head urging me to post my feelings following my father's death. I have mixed feelings, some left over from before his death. Surprisingly, I find that I don't dwell on things in the day. In the day, my life is back to normal taking care of business, the kids, the home, playing with them, running errands, being with friends. But at night my mind drifts back to my dad. Less this weekend than last weekend and earlier this week. I suppose the best place to begin sorting out my mess of emotions is to start with the past.

For years there has been a growing tension within myself against my dad. Mostly directed at his behavior as a result of his drinking. Ten years ago he traveled to Dallas to give me away at my wedding. We had a dance, posed for pictures, then the rest of my wedding is a blur of friends and events. For about five years I fell out of touch with my dad. He moved from place to place not having a mobile phone or stable address. And I was busy being young and care-free. (Boy are those days gone!) Then somehow I reconnected with him either through my grandmother getting his number or something like that. For several more years I called him on holidays or special occasions, never having anything profound to say, just keeping tabs. He drifted from girlfriend to girlfriend, moving when the job moved. (He was a building construction supervisor.) Then I got pregnant with Josh and hoped he would be motivated to come out and see his grandson, and us, in Dallas. I gave him eleven months then went to Colorado to see family and let him meet Josh. I continued to urge him to find the time to come out for a weekend trip or do it during a holiday break. First he said he didn't have enough money. Then he didn't have time. Then he was busy taking care of his mother who had lung cancer. All seemed valid reasons so I didn't push the issue. After Betty passed away, my dad got a little of her inheritance so I again urged him to find some time to come out to see us. He promised he would make the trip to see us so I was filled with hope only to have that dashed away. He came as close as Lubbock to visit my mom and some old friends but ended up going back to Denver. The day I heard he went back home without telling me or making the attempt to see us made me feel unimportant. I felt like I was less important to him than his drinking (which he did a lot of in Lubbock), less important than his ex-wife of 12 years, less important than the life he complained about in Denver. And now having Elliot, I was feeling anger on their behalf that he didn't act like a typical grandfather. He never mailed birthday cards, holiday cards, called us, any of that. He was a deadbeat grandfather. I was the one doing the work to keep us connected. And when I realized my efforts where not being reciprocated I felt a chill in my heart towards my dad. I suddenly cared less about how he was doing being consumed by my quiet anger. I never did broach the topic with him.

Terry left Lubbock suddenly because he felt "off". He once had cholesterol and high blood-pressure problems so he had left over medication for that but didn't have it with him. He also had a raging headache. He went to his doctor in Denver who eventually determined my dad had a brain tumor. Brain tumors seem to run in the family among heavy smokers. I'm sure this was hard news for my dad to take. He didn't tell me when he found out. Instead, he married an old friend of his, Nell. From my perspective it seemed like a rushed move. I didn't know who Nell even was until I got a drunken voicemail from my dad saying he got married and was sorry. He apologized twice. I called back worried that he'd fallen in with a bar wench or maybe got drunk and married unintentionally. Why else would he sound so sorry? He didn't answer so I left him a message only to have Nell call me back, introduce herself and explain that she wasn't a fling. My dad didn't talk to me then but he did call me a day or two later, this time with Nell apparently sitting with him. I could hear her saying in the background, "You gotta tell her Terry."
"Tell me what, dad?"
"Ah it's nothing..."
"Terry, talk to your daughter!"
"Tell me what, dad?"
"Well, I'm sick baby. You know I've had poor health in the past and so I went to the doctor for a check up and he... -big sigh- he found that I have a brain tumor."
"No you don't. Come on, seriously." I didn't want to believe him.
"No, I ain't making this up."
"Well where in your head is it? How big is it? Are you going to have it removed?"
"I've got it under control, I don't want you to worry about it."
"Did he give you a time line?"
"He did."
"I got maybe a few months baby," he began crying on the phone, which made me cry because my dad never cries. This meant it was serious. I don't remember how the conversation ended but it disturbed me. I had so many questions, so many worries, I even began thinking about how his funeral would be. This was eleven months ago.

I pressed my dad to tell me about his tumor. I wanted to know where it was in his head so I could be prepared to effectively help him. I wanted to know if it was big or small thinking maybe if it were small it could be removed and I would be willing to pay for that. I wanted to know who his doctor was because my dad wouldn't tell me anything. Those wonderful HIPAA laws would've prevented that anyway. I got no information at all, and neither did his wife Nell. So over the months Nell would call concerned when my dad fell or his speech slurred or he acted uncharacteristic. Some of the uncharacteristic stuff was just him feeling needy or being the raging alcoholic that he was, that she was unprepared for. Even though I was angry that he stood me up never making that trip to see us, I was back to being concerned for him and ready to spring into action if he needed help.

Months went by, mostly getting calls from Nell who updated me on his antics and behavior. He had become verbally abusive, which is very uncharacteristic of my dad. He would cuss Nell out calling her terrible things. I would counsel Nell on the phone giving her reassuring words, ideas to cope and reminding her she was doing the very best job anyone could expect.

Then my dad started thinking about suicide. It started as conversations with Nell, just talking about it as an option. Then he tried a few ways. I'm sure he tried blood alcohol poisoning, a maneuver I would have expected. Then he got more bold. He sat in his Jeep breathing in fumes. He overdosed on medication. Both of these stunts landed him in a hospital for mental observation. The last time he was released from the hospital he tried to move back in with Nell. She was at her wits end with his behavior and wasn't coping with the stress of his alcoholism. She asked him for some time to think, some space. She wanted to talk to him about their relationship. My dad decided instead that he was done and concocted his final suicide attempt.

Something else angered me before his death but I'm less upset by it now. The first time my father was hospitalized, he told the staff he had no family, no wife. The case worker told me this asking why he might say this. I was baffled as to why. It did bother me at the time. It makes sense now that he didn't want to be found or helped. I presume he wanted to be released so he could make another attempt. But his nosy quick-thinking daughter found him.

I was shocked to hear he had chosen to hang himself. That wasn't his style. I'm thinking he must have been desperate. I know his head was hurting more and more according to Nell. I also know my dad had a general mistrust of doctors. His cousin also had a brain tumor but had his operated on. However, he died a few days later in the hospital. I think my dad knew he wouldn't survive his tumor, by doctor or not, and wanted to go out his own way when he was ready.

But there's a piece I still need to really understand my dad. He had always been a bit depressed using alcohol as his drug of choice. When he was drinking he was happy. I want to know if he used the tumor as an excuse to be done with life or if he genuinely couldn't remove the tumor. Was he so stubborn that operating was never an option? Was it an option? Some tumors expand out like spaghetti or are located in areas that can't be reached without compromising the person. Because I don't know anything about my dad's tumor, I don't know his motivations. Suicide was never something he would have considered when I knew him growing up. Had something changed? Maybe age? Or losing his mother a year ago? I have no doubt that the tumor would have killed my father eventually. I just don't know if that could have been prevented. I'm already sad that he's gone. But if I learn he avoided medical attention that could have prolonged his life, I may be a little disappointed in him as well.

Something else about my dad's death bothers me. He was talking to Nell on the phone asking her to let him stay with her but also blaming her for trivial stuff. When it was clear that she was firm on needing her space that night, he said, "Well f*ck it, I'll just do it." She said she heard a muffled thump then didn't hear anything else. She was concerned about him but didn't know what to think of the thump. He had been known to falling so this was a possibility. Perhaps he had dropped the phone. Or perhaps he was pretending in order to get her attention. She let it go and went to sleep. The next morning he was discovered. I want to know why my dad decided he needed to be on the phone talking to Nell about their relationship while he was standing ready to kill himself. Why would he do that to her? Why wouldn't he do it alone like he'd tried the other times? It seems apparent now that he had planned this. He didn't just suddenly decide to off himself like someone with a gun might do. No, this was planned. He'd spent time thinking about it. He gathered his rope or wire or whatever he used. I'm sure he determined the structural stability testing that it would hold his weight and not be too short. He made his noose. He even manged to get the noose over his head while talking to Nell on the phone. He was making the decision to do this and do it while talking to her. Why??

I feel bad for Nell that she'll probably always have a little guilt that if she'd said something different maybe he would have lived a little longer. But he was going to do it- it was just a matter of time.

After the viewing, I haven't cried about my dad's death. I've given it more thought while also moving on with my life. I feel a little relieved knowing where he is now, that he's not hurting, that he's not getting into trouble. All the stress about his mental state and well being are lifted. He is where he wanted to be in his last moment alive. He wanted to get it over with. I regret that I didn't make a trip out to see him before he died. However, maybe it's better that I wasn't around. No father is going to talk to his child about his death. Certainly not my father. And I don't blame him for that.

I will miss my father and I'm sad that he's really gone. I think he would have wanted me to move on in life, to not dwell on his passing. I am doing that. But I am also collecting some of his things and pictures to make a nice memorial box so that some day his grandsons can look at their grandfather's pictures and see a few relics of his. I hope someday to understand him a little better so I can help my sons learn who he was and maybe learn something from his life.



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