Death of a Father (2015)

So many experiences in life: Excitement, adventure, happiness, sorrow, anger, knowledge, athletics, love, children, and so much more. It seemed this journey would continue indefinitely. I was deeply saddened when my mother passed in 2001. I was very close to my Mom, and was em pathetic of the turbulence in her life after her divorce with Pop. As the elder son, many of the responsibilities of the now-absent father fell on my shoulders and I tried to support Mom and my five brothers and sister.

Proud isn't an adequate word to describe my feelings toward my Pop. He was very active in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and took us camping frequently. He bought boats and on weekends took us water skiing, fishing, and shark hunting in the Catalina Channel. 'Never a dull moment. He challenged us intellectually in ways we didn't recognize we were being challenged.

But when I was 17-years old, he left us, never to return. To this day, I've not reconciled his decision to abandon the family. We were torn and confused. Mom was devastated and turned to alcohol and drugs to ease her sadness. He left and never turned back. We didn't hear from him for years. The family rightfully turned on him and bashed him at every opportunity. I couldn't forget my countless good memories of Pop and continually found myself defending his worthiness.

Mom conceived one last child from Pop during the waning days before their final separation. Timothy Richard was born February 4th, 1964, and Pop was nowhere to be found. I took Mom to the hospital and waited in the lobby with other expecting fathers when Tim was born. I changed his diapers, read to him, played with him, taught him to ride a bike, and all of the other cherished experiences between a father and son. I couldn't understand how Pop could be gone during these exciting times.

Time passed and I went in the Navy, then college, then graduate school, then Denver with an oil company. The family stumbled along without a father or eldest son to guide them. These were extremely difficult years for all of them, and I regret I couldn't be more help. I sent money frequently. The scars from those years remain painfully evident in my siblings. Some resentment to Pop's abandonment of the family was passed on to me.

As I aged, my warmth toward Pop diminished. I began to see him not as a brilliant father and mentor, but as a narcissistic man off on his own journey. Only now can I admit this. I so admired his intellect and sense of humor, and I vividly remember my childhood adventures. It created a deep conflict in me I still haven't resolved. I never shared my pent-up anger with Pop, and related with him as though nothing adverse ever happened.

As the years ticked by, Pop continued marching through life like a Duracell bunny. He was active in so many things and helped so many people. I couldn't ever understand how he could be more concerned with his new friends than his own offspring. He always was the 'life of the party' with his tales of the world and science. He laughed and joked and people everywhere were drawn to him. He was blessed with good health and continued to travel the world and engage in endless entrepreneurial businesses. At 85, he hiked with me into a steep canyon in Zion Park and did great. At 89, he still was driving his Audi sports car like Parnelli Jones. It seemed this bunny would never slow, and I'm proud of his good memory and health.

Then came the dreaded phone call. Pop is no longer with us. I find myself a bit angry he didn't seek medical help for his ailing stomach. It wasn't a condition that should have killed him. He was good for another 10 years or more. But he was bull-headed and decided to tough it out and not trouble others with this sick stomach. It killed him. Even after vomiting blood on the carpet, he called a rug cleaning service to come to the house to clean the mess. They called back the next day and I took the call: 'Pop has passed, but please come clean the rug'.

This is where the 'out of body' experience begins. It's long been know I was to be executor of Pop's estate and I jumped into this roll with both feet. Sorting out his debts and cars and rentals and such; meeting with attorneys, pastors, bankers, realtors; cremation, the Will, INTEC, an obituary, and so much more. The demands were so great I never got my balance, and was slow to digest what just happened. Now as the dust settles, I'm saddened and torn. Pop died April 12th and it's now May 14th. A couple nights ago, I dreamed about my father for the first time ever. It was a pleasant dream that took place during my high school years before the demise of the family. I now have Pop's iPhone and computer and receive his mail, and I'm seeing life through his eyes. I look at his picture on his license, passport, and Facebook and feel a profound absence. It's the first time I've been forced to consider my own mortality.

2016 by Connelly