Now I am an orphan.
As anyone who has ever glanced at my blog knows, I’m one of those daughters who needs her Parents in her life. Mommy’s girl, Daddy’s girl, whatever the kids are calling it these days, that’s me.
Always and without fail, my Parents have been my rock.
When I lost my Mom 2 years, 5 months and 14 days ago, my world was upended and nothing was ever completely right again. She was my best friend, my keeper of secrets and knew me better than anyone in the world. To this day I find myself reaching for the phone to call her.
So I carried on the best I could because someone had to take care of my Dad, who else but the middle girl-child would take on the task?
In my brother Tom’s defense, he did what he could to help out, but lets face it, a man born in 1927 is more likely to expect a woman’s help than accept a man’s help. Male pride runs deep, especially when you’re an ex-Navy man. Showing weakness to your son is not acceptable to some people, and my Dad was certainly one of those people.
My older brother, well, he’ll get a post of his own once the estate is settled. I don’t know if he just finds me beneath him because I never went to college and instead pursued my dreams; singing songs I wrote in my own band and working towards becoming a real writer to name a few, but the point is I followed my heart and not my bank account. Lets put it this way: when I mentioned to my older brother as we sat around my Mom’s Thanksgiving table maybe 8 years ago, that I didn’t realize he was on Facebook and I’d send him a friend request he gave me a song and dance answer that translated into a big fat no you will not be my FB friend. I only use it for business, he told me. Oddly enough, I found this was a lie and all my relatives, including my younger brother, were all on his ‘friends’ list.
A virtual slap in the face. But more about that another time.
My Father was stubborn, grouchy, and refused to let me move in with him to make his life a little easier. Instead, I spent a lot of time in my car, driving 20 minutes each way at the drop of a hat. Doctor appointments? I took him to all of them and Dad was the kind of senior citizen who liked to make doctor appointments the way people make plans to go to lunch, they were social engagements to him more than necessary appointments but I understood and played the game.
My daily phone calls with my Mom now turned into many, many phone calls from Dad, a few times a day is one thing but he’d call to tell me there was a John Wayne movie on, or to let me know what the song of the day was. See, he’d walk every morning down at the waterfront and that was part of his shtick, every morning he’d sing a different song as he walked, like the Pied Piper, little kids would follow him asking “what’s the song of the day Charlie?” He’d talk to their parents and ask if it was okay to give them a piece of candy or a lollipop, and whenever it was vacation time, a group of teenagers would talk to him and tell him they were watching out for him.
He was loved by strangers, openly showing affection, but he had a hard time doing the same for his immediate family.
Here’s the thing; my Father was, for all intents and purposes, an orphan. He never knew his own Father and his Mother died before he was 5 years old. He was raised by his maiden Aunt, who we all referred to as our Grandmother.
My Dad used to roller skate all the time when he was a kid, and one night, when he and his posse came out of the rink, they heard the news, Pearl Harbor was bombed. Right then and there my Dad decided he was going to enlist in the Navy. He had some hoops to jump through because he was only 17 years old but he did it, he went to boot camp in Buffalo NY and that young boy became a man quickly as he boarded a ship and soon found himself a part of the Normandy Beach Invasion on D-Day. He’s told me a lot of stories from back then but one in particular sticks out in my mind. He was on LST 279, a torpedo missed his ship by 20 feet but that’s not the story I’m referring to; the ships were at the mercy of the tides, they were unable to move when the tide was low and sometimes little French children would walk out to the ships and wave to the sailors on the ship. One day, when they were serving lemon meringue pie, something my Dad hated, he took a pie and put it in his helmet to lower it down to the kids in the surf. On the way down, the helmet did a 360 and through the grace of God, or maybe just pure luck, as the helmet flipped the pie slipped out and somehow managed to land right-side up inside the helmet, undamaged. Dad told me those kids were so thrilled to have a pie to eat they were scooping it out of the pie tin with their fingers until they got every drop.
A week ago today, on September 26th, 2015, my Dad passed away in the same hospital my Mom did, although I talked to him every day and saw him a few times a week, he gave no indication of any problems, although I felt a chill when he told me he wanted to die but didn’t want to kill himself. He missed my Mom. He wanted to be with her. We had this conversation Tuesday night and Wednesday I went to pick him up for his doctor appointment. I walked in the house and found him on the floor, unable to move. I called 911 and spent the next few days at the hospital with my younger brother.
The first thing my Dad said when he was stable was “Her name is Alice Bridget Carey”, my Mom’s maiden name. I felt like he was letting his higher power know he was looking for his wife. The last thing he said to me was “I love you”.
And I know he did.
I made a conscious decision around 10 years ago that I would spend as much time as I could with my Parents. I knew how lucky I was to have both my Parents alive and I wanted no regrets when they were gone. I didn’t want to say ‘I should have spent more time with them’.
There are a lot of relatives who didn’t like my Father. After my Mom died, not one relative ever made any effort to contact my Father in any way. This made me so sad, because even if he was a grouchy old man, he was my Father, he was my Mother’s husband. He was Family but he was written off.
But not by me.
I love you Dad, and I always will. Rest In Peace, I will never forget you.