One Saturday evening in mid November my partner and I were getting ready for a friends engagement party. We had a couple of hours to kill before getting ready, so we thought we’d watch a little TV. I was looking forward to the evening as it was mine and my partner’s date night. Our babysitter, funny enough, was the child I had babysat for six years while living in her family’s garage apartment. Our son loved her, so that made us feel comfortable to have her.
As we were relaxing and watching TV, the phone rang. I answered it. The woman on the other end said, “May I speak to MaLea, please?” Just as I heard her voice my heart sank. I recognized the voice as Daddy’s girlfriend’s daughter. We had spoken in the past and I had always felt the next time I’d speak to her she would be telling me Daddy was dead. When I answered that it was me who was speaking, the woman identified herself as who I thought she was. I sat on the edge of the couch waiting to hear why she had called. Meanwhile, I knew. She first apologized for disturbing me and then didn’t waste anytime to tell me why she had called. She was kind and so sweet. I really liked her. She said, “MaLea, I’m sorry to have to call you like this and to have to tell you like this but your Dad died.” Even though I knew why she had called, I was in shock when she said those words, “Your dad died.” Those were the words I had dreaded to hear for years. And yet I knew that was exactly how I was going to find out he had died. But even though I had expected it, it still didn’t make it any easier to hear.
A rush of emotions hit me as I echoed her words over and over again in my head. Daddy was gone. “It” was all over. There was never going to be any chance of reconciliation and Daddy was never going to say the words to me, “I’m sorry for all of those years I neglected you and abused you.” Daddy was dead and there was never going to be another chance of hearing from him or running into him in the grocery store. It was so hard to wrap my brain around the realization of it. My Daddy who I loved in spite of his abuse was gone. And above all the many years I tried to get Daddy to take ownership of his behavior felt in vain the very moment I was told he was dead. With those thoughts a huge wave of sadness hit me and I wasn’t able to continue to speak on the phone. I passed the phone to my partner as I went upstairs to be by myself. I know it sounds cliche, but I fell to my knees, rested my head on my bed and cried like I had never cried before. I know it sounds crazy but I was sad that my dad was gone. I spent my entire life chasing him, chasing a dream. I just can’t even begin to explain how I felt that evening. Not only did I feel an overwhelming amount of sadness but I also felt anger for him not wanting to repair what he had so seriously damaged. It felt good to punch my bed as I imagined I was punching Daddy for all of the pain he had caused me. That BASTARD! What a coward! As difficult as it was it actually felt good to let out the pain and anger that had been building for so long. And it was so poignant to be doing it for the person who found crying to be a weakness. It was a defining moment for me. I realized how I had wasted so many years for a cause that I could never change.
I found out that Daddy had died alone. It was what he said was his biggest fear. And yet, he chose it. Apparently, that day we saw him in the grocery store (two years before), he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Sadly, he had quit smoking four years prior but it was too late. A lifetime of smoking couldn’t change his outcome. The amazing part was Daddy didn’t tell anyone of his diagnosis. Incredible! That man spent his entire life telling others he was dying for this or that reason. And then when he was actually diagnosed with what would be his demise, he kept it a secret. There was just no way to ever figure out that man. Anyway, towards the end of Daddy’s life, he isolated himself in his home. He refused any treatment, so he basically was waiting to die. Just days before his death Daddy’s girlfriend’s daughter went to Daddy’s house to check on him because he was no longer answering his phone. It took Daddy a very long time to answer the door and when he did his appearance shocked her. His legs had open sores that were bleeding. He didn’t even know it and dismissed it when she asked him about it. He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for days and he couldn’t remember what day it was. Not able to care for Daddy herself especially since she didn’t know what was wrong with him, she told Daddy she needed to take him to the hospital. He got upset and told her no. She could see something was very wrong with Daddy and she knew she couldn’t leave him home alone. The condition he was in clearly showed his lack of ability to care for himself. She felt he was in danger which he was. Against Daddy’s will, she called a State service to come and remove him from his home. And as they had to forcefully remove Daddy from his home, he at first was very angry. I was told he was screaming that they had no right to take him. But then when he realized they were not going to back down, Daddy started crying and begging them to allow him to die at home alone. To those around him who heard they said it was incredibly heartbreaking when Daddy pleaded for them to not take him away. After a day in the hospital Daddy slipped into a coma and died. No one was by his side.
My sister wanted Daddy to have an Orthodox, Jewish funeral which I supported. She made the arrangements and asked a Rabbi who had known Daddy to officiate. I didn’t sleep the entire night before the funeral. I needed to write how I was feeling. And so I did. After I finished I felt it was important for me to read it at Daddy’s funeral. I needed to read it out loud. I needed those in attendance to hear. I suppose I needed to finally admit what Daddy had done, so that I could move forward with my life and not allow him to hold me back. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure the Rabbi would allow me.
The day of the funeral, it was a beautiful one. It was just like the day Momma had died. The air was crisp and the sun was out. When the Rabbi arrived I asked him if I could please read something. He was very kind to allow me that and I was so appreciative. As Daddy’s coffin lied in front of me I took my paper, stood up and read the following for all to hear. It wasn’t important just for those present to hear me but more importantly where ever Daddy was, I needed that one last moment for him to hear. I finally had his undivided attention to hear my pain and to see me cry. Aside from the words I read that day I needed to express the pain I was feeling by showing it through my tears. To me it was a spit to the face of Daddy’s philosophy that crying meant I was weak. On the contrary it took all the strength I had to allow my emotions to flow that day without being inhibited by the absurdity of his insane rational. My crying was ALL about strength that day as I read:
I truly never thought this day would come. Even though you have always had physical problems, I thought you’d live forever. Today is such a sad day for me and now in death I hope you can understand my pain. I love you daddy. You will always have a special place in my heart. In that place I own a part of you where I remember the loving side of my Daddy. I remember the wonderful hugs and kisses you used to be able to give. I remember when we used to snuggle in your bed and I’d tickle you under your arms. I loved the laugh you would give. I will remember the bear hugs you would give when I was afraid at night of the monsters. I will always laugh about how you tried to tell me that there was nothing to fear but fear itself and I was only 6. . I will always miss our incredible conversations about the universe and where we go when we die.
Daddy, I know that you lived life with a lot of pain and as a result it cost you so much including your family. It saddens me that your life was enveloped with this pain and that it had to take away our Daddy. However, I understand that your pain and fears could not be overcome. Sadly, it owned you to the very end.
Daddy, I hope Momma isn’t giving you too much grief. I can see her right now with a rolled up piece of paper whacking you over the head saying, Norman, what the hell was wrong with you? And I’m sure she’s one of many in line. However, in my heart, today I see that this as the first day of a pain free world for you. Finally, you no longer suffer and you can be free of any demons and monsters you had been fighting with for so long. Daddy, I’m so sorry for your suffering. I am so sorry. I would have given anything to have been able to take that away from you. However, I understand it was something you could not relinquish.
I’m also sad today that you Daddy chose to die alone. My heart is truly broken not for myself but for you. No one deserves that. Even at the end, you still couldn’t reach out.
I know Daddy, you, made a lot of enemies in your life and I know you made many bad choices. You did many bad things to me. I will never understand why and I will never forget those things. A daddy should never do those things to their child. As my partners family always says- shame on you. However, in order for me to move forward so that I don’t pass on that anger, since of revenge, rage and pain that you Daddy so steadfastly held onto, I must bury those things today with you. I want Judah to have a fresh new start.
Daddy, I love you despite all of our differences. Please, tell Momma that I love her too and have missed her so much. Give her a kiss for me (after she stops being angry). Tell her about Carol and tell her that I’m happy. Please, y’all come for a visit sometime and be there to watch Judah in all of his life’s events. Please, stand next to me when I need my Momma and Daddy’s support so I don’t let my pain overwhelm me.
Today is an ending to a very sad story. However, today is now a new beginning. Thank you Daddy for (now) giving me that new beginning.
I love you.