Sunday, November 25, 2007

Missing Dad

November 23 - 8 years! Can't believe how quickly it goes. When you lose someone you feel like your world has crashed around you and the physical pain you feel is enough to convince you that life will never continue and then you wake up one day and realize it's been 8 years! The day my Dad died was such a unique day, it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and he was traveling to Fresno to meet with a client. I was working all day and had a ton of things on my plate. I was swamped and didn't know how I would get it all together. My husband and Bella surprised me for lunch, because he had the day off and although I didn't have the time, was a nice surprise and forced a much needed break. I had a meeting at 2pm that day, I was told it was mandatory and was working extra hard because I knew that the meeting would interupt much. I sat in my office and debated whether or not I should skip the meeting and face the consequences....I wasn't worried, just not one for "breaking the rules" - - after glancing at the clock at 1:56pm I decided it just wasn't possible. I had this feeling that I just needed to get as much as I could get done - done! On my way home that day I heard a song titled - "Can't live a day without you" by Avalon. I loved it! It spoke of Faith in God and a relationship that depended so souly on it that it was impossible to imagine life without it. It spoke a great deal to me I made a mental note of the name so that I could remember and look for the CD. Got home and life was normal, Mart had planned a quick dinner and because I was late in getting home, after dinner, he walked the dog and I got Bella ready for bath. I was washing Bella in the tub when my Mom called and asked Mart if she could talk with me really quickly - he asked if I could call her back because Bell was in the tub, but she explained that it was important and I said that it was fine. When I got on, I could sense panic in her voice and she told me that Dad wasn't home. I was surprised, I had forgotten that he was going to Fresno for the day - a 3 hour trip from us. She had tried his office and couldn't reach anyone. He had told her that he would be home in time for dinner and that was about 2 hours earlier. She mentioned that he was with one of his employees, Vince, training him on sales. Vince had a cell and Mom tried them on it and there was no answer. I told her to call Vince's wife and see if she knew anything and told her to call me right back. Martin heard the conversation and automatically anticipated getting Bella out of the tub and dressed. I helped when I got off the phone, but many things were running through my head. The phone rang. I answered immediately and Mom was crying, saying over and over, "I think they are dead, I think they are dead!" I asked her what they told her and she explained that Vince's brother answered and told her that the police had just left their house and were on their way to my Mom's. Mart heard, and ran to get the car, I told her that we were on our way and ran out to meet Mart.

The drive over was the longest 15 minutes of my life. Marty tried to console me and tell me that maybe he just couldn't get to a phone...I disagreed, my Dad was big on "always" calling...always, no matter. We got to my Mom's and there was an unmarked police car in the drive. I got out and walked to the door, there was a tall man standing there...I introduced myself and he just nodded and turned to my Mom who was standing in the foyer. I looked at her and all she said was "He's gone". Tears just started pouring, and I just said quietly, but outloud "NO!" - "How? I don't understand!". The gentleman that was there, who was the coroner for our town, went on to tell me that there had been a multiple car accident on highway 99; a semi who was traveling in the opposite direction was speeding, lost control, went through the oleander bushes and hit my Dad's truck head on, flipped over and hit several other cars. My Dad and Vince died instantly, in fact, according to the coroner's report the impact was so severe that when my Dad lunged forward the seatbelt left a mark and his aortic valve ripped immediately from his heart. As bad as it sounds, it means, he didn't know anything. The driver and passenger of the Semi died also, and another man was in a coma for more than a month and would have to relearn everything when he woke. He was my age at the time. The accident was so severe it backed up traffic for 3 hours, which is partly why it took so long for them to get to us, since the accident occurred at precisely 1:55pm.

After that the rest of the night is kind of a blur, I remember talking with my sisters, noticing that the stew my Mom made was still on the table, rocking by myself wrapped in my Dad's blanket in his chair. I remember sitting on his side of the bed and crying, touching all of the art that my Dad had created, including the clay he had worked on the night before to develope something - I could see his fingerprints in the clay, I would just fit my fingers in his. Many people came by the house that night - my Dad's colleagues and boss, friends - I had called a dear friend of mine whose father-in-law was our minister and he came by. Bella just wandered and enjoyed all the attention she was getting. She was only 21 months, and yet allowed me so much time to myself. My husband put a pot of coffee on, because he knew that is what my father would have done. I called my boss to tell him I wouldn't be in in the morning and talked a couple more times to my sisters who I know felt terrible because they weren't there.

I can't begin to explain how you just kind of move through the day. It was numbing. The next morning we had to go to the funeral home and make arrangements to have my Dad's body moved from Fresno to Salinas, and pick out a casket. We got there and my mom was having a really difficult time.....She had looked at one casket that she felt was the one, but I insisted on another, it was beautiful - solid wood, no satin, just plain, simple - like my father - I figured he spent so much of his spare time turning blocks of wood into fabulous works of art that he would truly appreciate the beauty of the wood on what would be his "final resting place". She agreed and that one decision down. Getting his body was a nightmare because of the holiday. The morgue in Fresno was horrible to deal with and we were on a time crunch, because we were having a service for him in California and another in his hometown in Pennsylvania, so I needed to finalize the arrangements for transferring his body by air to PA also.

I am so fortunate to be able to see that we were not required to identify my father. His face did not receive great damage, however, his co-worker Vince did and his son had to see him before arrangements could be made. The day of my father's funeral in Salinas was so unbearable. I stood in my closet just staring - what do you wear to you Father's funeral? The pretty black dress that was a favorite, the dress that he thought was pretty, something dark, something bright - what is right. I sat on the floor at one point, just crying with the words of a favorite song ringing over and over in my head. Finally I settled on one of my Dad's favorite skirts and a simple black sweater. When we got the funeral home, my sister's, who had flown from Kentucky were with my Mom outside. I was so nervous, how do you prepare to see your Father in this state. We let my Mom go first, my heart broke for her, watching her touch him, my sister and her husband were next, then my other sister, and finally me - Marty let me go ahead - I walked up and could see the make up, the marks from the glass in his face - noticed immediately the absence of his glasses (they had been broken in the accident) - his hand was wrapped and his fingers were swollen, but it was my Dad - my Dad!!! The tears just streamed from my eyes uncontrollably and I turned to be with my family.

We were given his "articles" by the diretor shortly after, the shirt he was wearing, which was still cold and damp from the blood, his key ring, his wedding ring and Penn State class ring - I grabbed his keys and played with them in my hand all morning, just rubbing my fingers back and forth over and over them.

People began to come in for the viewing before the of the gentleman the I will never forget was the man that saw my father last. He was a client who had known my father a long time, and went to lunch with him that day. He kept apologizing to the point that my sisters and I noticed something wasn't right....he blamed himself. He said "if I hadn't kept him quite as long, didn't talk so much, or pushed him to stay longer - anything - I am so so sorry" - - My sisters and I all immediately told him how wrong he was, it wasn't his fault - we would never think that - - my Dad always said that when it's your time it's your time - - - we reiterated it to him, but he was so tearful - and there was nothing we could say or do. We all just hugged him and tried to lighten it a bit by asking questions. I sincerely hope he found peace over the years. My thoughts go to him often and to the young man involved in the accident, he had children and a wife, how is he? Where is he? That day is as clear to me today as it was then - just feels like a lifetime ago.

On the anniversary of his death I was driving to St. Louis, just outside of the city I was slowed by traffic. We had the misfortunate of driving by an accident that had occurred earlier. You could see that it was severe and by the tarps over one of the vehicles I was led to believe that someone didn't make it home that day. When I woke the following morning, the St. Louis paper would prove me right. Two sisters, 18 and 13 had been driving home from their father's and stepmother's when they were hit by a car that lost control, crossed the divide and hit them, causing them to spin out and flip multiple times. They died instantly. My heart goes out to that family - my thoughts went immediately to my two girls - I couldn't imagine losing two daughters - it's beyond words.

One of the realties of things like this is that you are not safe from everything. Anything can happen at anytime, and there is a great possibility that it will. There is a possibility that this could happen in my family again, nothing is certain. Nothing except that I know I see my Dad again one day, that he is resting, that I see God's hand in it all, that I can grab one of the workshop shirts of my father's and hold it close, close my eyes and imagine him with me. I know he is with me, I am confident that he knows my girls - I do miss him fiercly - but I celebrate him also - to do anything short of that would not do justice to such a wonderful man.

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