For those that didn’t know, my father passed away in Tucson, AZ at 8 pm last night. I have spent the night crying, and most of the day. I thought I had grieved for him before when he had some strokes that deprived him of his long term memory. But, he was still there. So I will like to let you get to know the man that I knew, that I loved as my dad.
I had gone to live with my father for the first time when I was 15. Before then, I had visited him during the summers, and had enjoyable memories of going to Disneyland, where I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride so much that we rode it every morning, and every night before we left. I also remember getting food poisoning with him on that trip. He also took me to the San Diego Zoo, where I could see the cats and the bears. Still my favorites. He would also be the person I would call from Houston, when I had math problems I could not figure out and work with me over the phone before I lived with him. He would tell me he was proud of me when I placed in track, though when I came to live with him, he didn’t allow me to play. Though I ended up being on the teams as a manager, and could outrun the entire track team (that was one time when I laughed and went to play with the big boys. Literally, I went and learned how to play volleyball by the guys team.).
One of the staples of my visits had been the Desert Museum. I loved museums and he took me to all of the ones he could in Tucson. But that one? That one I LOVED. Loved it more than the Natural Science one here in Houston. Why? It was alive. It had animals, and in their natural habitats. It had a cave experience for you to walk through and learn in. It also had my other love. Bird enclosures. Now one was what you expect, full of quails (Which are funny) and other birds of the desert. But my favorite? Hummingbirds. I would sit in there for what seemed like hours when I was a kid. All these bright colored birds flying everywhere, stopping to stare at the funny looking humans or drinking their weight plus to keep up their tiny metabolism. I loved it. So much I drag others to see it to this day. But I remember my dad taking me, and laughing at me for hating the insect and snakes area. Ewww.
He had no idea what to do with me when I called and asked if he would take me in. He thought he was getting a 15 year old that was like kids around him. He instead got an angry girl who was set in her ways already and probably reminded him way too much of his ex-wife. The differences between us were night and day. He was unsure what to do with me, so he went the route of being strict. For someone that was left on her own before that often, and in charge of her own life, well, we can just say it didn’t go over well. He was strict with my grades, actually going to those parent conferences. See, I had tested out of a lot of ‘normal’ classes, and didn’t care. I always skated by with good grades and cared less about anything else. So they put me in advance classes. What’s the big deal?
Boy was I taught a lesson. I hated vocabulary tests. Detested them. Spelling, putting them into a sentence and such. I was awesome in making sense of a word when reading it in a sentence. Done it all my life and had awesome comprehension skills. But as many of you know, I suck with memory. I can’t remember people’s names. So vocabulary words? Hell no!
In addition to this, I have a speech impediment, that I went to lessons to try to fix when I was younger. I literally cannot say some words. Funny thing for an author huh? So vocabulary often exposed those issues, and I, at 15, felt too ashamed to tell them. So I was failing at that section of English. My teacher told my dad, and I was grounded. Neither knew of the issue I had, and I refused to tell them. Instead I had to write out the word and the meaning 25 times each week. With 25 words, well it was a lot. I learned, was forced to, but I hated it.
Then came computers. Soon, it was found I could do computer programs like nothing anyone could see at that time. I get bored and hacked into school systems to leave messages for my dad at his work. Which he worked for the school district. One man, whole district for computers. Yeah it was early back then. He would pick on me about it, but he taught me how to put together a computer from scratch. He discouraged me from being a computer programmer, thinking that it was going to a job that had too many people in it. LOL! He also would do things like spend all day working on a computer since he often heard me talking to it and yelling at it for not keeping up with me. We had a IBM and a Commodore in the house. The Commodore was for playing games, which he and a friend would play M.U.L.E. For hours. Anyways, he worked on the computer when I was writing a senior paper for graduation. I would go in and normally yell at the damn thing. But this time, he had stayed home installed new hardware in it, spending hours doing this. That night he sat there and waited. I was quiet for once, I think I was trying to put the damn footnotes in the thing, and it kept doing headers instead. I was using Word, cause he told me it would be more common than WordPerfect which was what I used and took classes on. So I was often frustrated. Finally, after working for an hour, I grew frustrated and yelled at the damn thing. It told me, “Yes…”
I was out of the room and in the living room by then. My dad was laughing so hard he fell off the couch.
He also is responsible for my knowledge of history. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVED history before I came to live with him. Museums remember? Loved it. Read up on the gods and goddesses. But he hooked me on it even more. To the point that all that trivia that I use in my stories and such? Yeah from him. In Tucson we have the University of Arizona and the Pima Community College. Who, back in 1990’s, had TV channels for classes. He watched some show with a guy in a jumpsuit. One-piece jumpsuit. We are talking, the same suit, for every episode. Yep it screamed the 70’s! This guy would give you something random like, Spaghetti and Gunpowder. And then would proceed to link them for you. We also watched this humanities class show all the time, to the point when I went to college, I took the class and passed with a A+, never watching an episode the entire semester, and passed my hubs doing the same thing since I claimed him for a partner.
Jeopardy? Every single night. Macy’s Thanksgiving parade? Was on the second it started. Every Friday after work? We listened to the local rock station’s Friday off work list at 5 o’clock. (Mr. Blue Sky, Bad to the Bone, Life’s Been Good, Bang A Gong to name a few) He woke me up on Saturday’s with Pink Floyd’s Time turned up to full volume. I knew every song on Led Zepplin’s Records, well the first four. I know Pink Floyds, Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall as though they were new hits. He introduced me to Eric Clapton and so many others. Not that my mom and stepdad had lacked in the education, but there is nothing like driving somewhere and being quizzed on songs. You LEARN them. Especially the Who. I hated the Who. “Who played this song.” “I don’t know.” “The WHO.” Every. Damn. Time. I also know the entire song of In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida. I didn’t know there was a short version of it. And I know that they were so high it was supposed to be In The Garden of Eden. But no one could understand them.
He made me Porcupine balls when he found out I hated stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage. He also made me sit at the table for 4 hours when I tried and hated Cordon Bleu. He taught me how to cook on the grill and how to start it. He bought me Kool-Aid by the packets. When he would buy cases of Pepsi, there was always orange and root beer in here for me. For my graduation present, he bought me a TV and a PlayStation. Though I wanted the Sega, he told me PlayStation would be better. (Who would have thought???) He introduced me to Heavy Metal, the movie.
He may have not known what to do with me, but he tried. He taught me how to grow a garden in the desert. When he learned I LOVED the flower 4 o’clocks, he taught me how to get the seeds, so I would get ones that had been cross pollinated and had streaks of yellow and pink in them. He bought me roses, no matter if we were told they were impossible to grow. I have a silver rose I can still see growing outside the house in Google Street.
I loved the waterfall in the backyard, so he added extra pumps to make it make more sound. He remembered a promise made to me when he lived in Limberlost when I was like 7, that if I came to live with him, he would buy me a waterbed. When I got there that first day, it was a soft sided waterbed, that could use normal sheets. It was awesome. He was like that he remembered the little things.
But as time went on, while I loved him, there was times I felt he pushed me away. He may have been. He didn’t know what to do with me. I was outspoken, could get him angry and walk away laughing. Which was funny, since I found out later that he did the same to my mom. I was the child of both of them, but so much like my mother to him, it was not funny. I have a temper, but I had learned by then to control it. But he would bring it out, and warned Marty to run away if my eyes got blacker than my pupil.
He would take me out for payday dinners, telling me to celebrate the little things in life. Like having a payday. When I got my first, he drove me to the mall and left me there until I called to come home. Then he would want to see what I got, and was impressed how far I could stretch $150.00. When he would send me Christmas gifts, he would save the comics from the following Sundays to pack the presents in. The year I got my ears pierced, he bought, and wrapped tons of them. It took me a whole morning to open them. He had found out that I had learned, being poor, to love the little things. I loved and still love Christmas, and he had made sure it was fun for me.
He taught me how to wrap, though it was my Aunt Sue that had me wrapping past midnight for her kids. He helped me one day when I found a bird who had hit the window and broke it’s wing. We cared for it, and it lived. Probably hit more windows, I don’t doubt. I found out how well behaved dogs could be, by him teaching his dogs not to stare.
These things and so many more made up my dad. He was not perfect. But he tried. I was not perfect either, I grew angry with him over a comment, and moved out. Looking back on it, he had probably done it to get me to leave the nest, but I was angry because I kept my part of the deal and went to school. Goofing off, but I was so bored. Him doing that helped me become stronger.
We had a fight, I remember clearly, and to this day, I don’t think he had really realized what happened to me. I had been raped, by a friend of mine. I ended up having to face him every day, and being convinced that while I said no, I really said yes. He had yelled at me, thinking I had sex willingly, and at that point in my life I accepted it. Now looking back at it? I don’t think he realized what had happened. But that had started a hatred in me for feeling like I was forced into a situation that I could tell no one.
I didn’t talk to him as much as I should have, especially these last few years. I remember when he was put in the hospital for a bleeding in his brain. It was a nightmare. They overmedicated him causing a stroke and another bleeder. It damaged him. By this time, I had married, and he didn’t come to the wedding. He was lost in his world. And it hurt to see this so very intelligent person brought so low. So I was selfish, and left the situation as it was. Yes, I had other things going on, and I have been in TX for a long time. Last time I went to AZ, I met him and Connie for lunch at Cheesecake Factory. It was sad to see him as he was.
He had arthritis. Severe rheumatoid arthritis. Most people would think, after the support I give for Alzheimer’s and Breast Cancer with the impact these have had in my life, I would give support for this. Instead, I wish to support a memory. I wish to make a donation to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in his name. I am not sure when I can, but I do think this would be more fitting for his memory. I would much rather remember those happy days of him taking me every summer to see the hummingbirds. Even after I lived with him, it was still something we did every Summer.
Sadly, he had decided to donate his body to science. I knew he had discussed with me over his worry that I, or any children I have, would inherit his arthritis, so I can see him doing what he can to see if he might hold a piece to the puzzle. But I was informed that there was no service. I cannot tell you how broken this makes me feel, that I have nothing, will have nowhere to go if I wanted to talk to him. So I will ask if I can plant a Desert Willow tree in his honor. This plant is hardy for the conditions in the desert, and it is a favorite of hummingbirds. Fitting I think.
All in all, you probably are tired of reading of him. But since I will have nowhere else to tell others of his impact on my life, I hope that this will work. People deserve to know the man who helped make me who I am. I regret not knowing him better, but at the end, it was not the man I made so many of the memories with. And I know that he will be happier where he has his full facilities. Where he gets to be with his parents and brother. Knowing him, he is probably laughing at me know and poking fun at me. Typical. Ah well, I can take being picked on. Have fun Dad. I love you, and will see you later.