February 27 1989. The day my father died. He was 54. He had a massive heart attack and died in his sleep.
I was at work when I got the call. My boss answered the phone, said "Jim, it's your mom and she doesn't sound right." I picked up and she asked if I was sitting. I told her that I was and she said "I think your father is dead. I went into the bedroom, he hasn't been out of bed all day and I tried to wake him. He's not answering, he won't move. I called the ambulance." I told her I was coming home. She said "Don't tell your sister...don't tell her." I told her that Georgette had called in sick and was not at work. She worked in the office across the hall from me. I hung up the phone, told my boss and she summoned someone to follow me home just to make sure I got there.
When I arrived at home, the ambulance was there. My father was dead. They were getting ready to take his body to the hospital (where I worked). May, my friend who followed me over, hugged both of us, told us that she would talk to us later and went back to work.
The apartment was quiet.
We figured out how we were going to tell Georgette. She was my dad's favorite. She knew it. His little girl. She was also 2 months pregnant.
We went over to her apartment. Her husband was home. My mom went into the bedroom to talk to Georgette. Her husband, Scott, asked me what was going on. I told him. At that point, Georgette had just found out because she started to cry. We were all crying at that point.
We stayed about an hour. We tried to get Georgette and Scott to come with us to have dinner. Somehow, in all of this, we remembered that we needed to eat. We tried to...we ended up just picking at plates of food.
The next couple of days were somewhat of a blur. Calls to family, a visit to a funeral home, going through paperwork.
My dad had been sick for years...he was diagnosed as manic-depressive and had developed a social phobia. He spent a lot of time indoors. He could be social in small doses. For years he was an alcoholic and when he stopped drinking, it changed him. Alcohol was his crutch and without it he became withdrawn. He didn't interact with friends, we didn't even see family very much. So when it came time plan my father's funeral, we knew it would be small.
My dad kept a stash of money in his passport case. On our birthdays or holidays, he would go into his cash stash and give us money. When we made the funeral plans, we remembered the cash stash. His cash on hand was the exact amount of his funeral costs.
The day of his funeral was cold and sunny. A dozen of us gathered, some prayers were read, and we were given a flag on behalf of the US Navy.
I feel guilty, I wasn't very close to my father. I loved him, but by the time I was old enough to understand everything, he had already changed. I remember good times...lots of fun family parties, laughter, great food. I remember him picking me up from school one afternoon, having just come from the car deealership, my parents just purchased a convertible. It went back the next day because it made him too nervous. I remember family vacations where we would all go but my father always stayed behind, in the hotel room, because he didn't feel like joining us.
He didn't mean to be withdrawn, I'm sure he tried to be there for us. I wish that he was. I loved my father, I just wish I had said it more when he was alive.