what you don't know

I met my father when I was 30. Turned out, I had a sister, too. And five loving aunts. A darling uncle. And about a thousand cousins. It's been an awesome journey.

***

My mother made it as difficult as possible to 'find' him. She lied about our heritage, our father's knowledge of us, her state of residence, where she attended high school ... difficult.

***

I meant to get in here and tell you all about the week of May 17-24. My little sister graduated. We had a ball. My father and his first granddaughter, Little Miss Rio, really bonded. We have many pictures of the two of them - Rio dragging him by his fingers, Dad beaming. Rio trying to work the silly string can he just gave her, Dad beaming. Dad beaming. He started making plans to be on the east coast by her birthday. July. For good. He's moving! Big news but he's long been known for his devotion to all the children of his side of the family. Rio grabbed his heart and headed east with it. He planned to follow.

***

There are 'shirt off your back' people and that applies to my father in such a complete way. He'd give anything. If he had a lot, you had a lot. If he had little, you had half. Just that way. Pretty famous for it.

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On May 31st he gave his life protecting a friend in need.

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The story is long, complicated, stupid, and mostly tragic. But he's gone. I find myself in pain in a way I didn't know existed. Getting through the days seems impossible and yet, I have no choice. Really, it's all I can do to get out of bed and try to make sure my daughter, husband, brother, and sister are okay. I know this will change, but for now, I'm just done. This will be my last post and I don't know for how long. I don't know anything anymore it seems.

***

I asked him for strength so I could stand and deliver a eulogy. I wanted to make him proud. Although the details are fuzzy, I've been told I pulled it off.

***

Dad

My father was a man of passion and action. Occasionally ill-advised, and always with great gusto. He was the sort of man you would hope to have on your side both in joy, and in sorrow. Although I found him later in life, I have had the opportunity to create many beautiful memories of him that I shall cherish always. He was a friend to all who knew him, evidenced by the beautiful and pure emotions we witnessed yesterday.

I'd like to share a story that encompasses both his immediate call to action in any crisis, as well as the joyous lunacy that seemed to be such a part of his life.

My sister, V*, left for college and left her cat in my dad's care. Just as he happily walked my Auntie R*'s dog every day, he happily undertook this responsibility of the cat. One day he arrived home to find the cat on the step, hungry for a meal. He prepared a dish for the cat, no doubt inquiring about the cat's day and whatnot, and placed the meal down and the cat ate heartily. After the meal was finished, my father tried to pick up the cat and continue their conversation with some nice petting and snuggling. The cat went crazy – hissing and scratching my father. Me, being a dog person, would have returned the cat to the outdoors and wished it well in its ventures. But my father jumped to action. He thought, "Oh no! What if the cat has rabies or distemper?! What it he ate something and he's sick?! If there's something wrong with this cat it will break V's heart. I have to get it to the vet immediately!"

So. He found a box, cornered the cat in the house, and at great personal risk and eventual harm, he wrestled that cat into that box. He put the hissing, howling box into his car and drove out of the driveway. Two houses down the road -- he saw his actual cat. He told me the cat was sunning himself on a deck, and he craned his head and smiled as my father drove by; no doubt wondering at my dad's errand and wondering at the identity of the howling and hissing cat in the box.

That was him. Immediate action.

The first time I met him, it was at the Chicago airport. My sister was with him and she stood a bit behind him. Protected by him, and peaking out at me. He embraced me and launched into an unprepared but very content rich soliloquy. How he never stopped loving us. How he thought of us every day. How he tried and tried to find us and he was so happy to have us again. He told me we have a great big family that loves us and never forgot us. I looked at his hands on the steering wheel and thought, "My brother has those hands." It has been one of the best gifts in my life, and in my brother's life, to wander into this fantastic family.

I feel blessed to have his blood running through my veins. From my father I have received uncommon courage, an inquiring mind – even if I don't use those powers to try to apply the math for the stress patterns of titanium to the stock market, or to use things like the Mayan calendar to predict the exact date of earth's last day -, the ability to speak at superhuman speeds, and, obviously, his devastating good looks. He's given me an amazing family. A wonderful brother. An adored sister. His granddaughter, Rio, cherished him from the moment she met him. I know how she feels.

We will share his stories and I know he will continue to live in the hearts of his friends and his family. Thank you all for being a part of that.






12 comments:

Burger said...

oh wow...I'm so, so sorry Nita.

I'm glad you and Rio were able to have that time with him. But it probably just makes it that much harder.

I don't have any other words than that. I'm really sorry.

the slackmistress said...

:( I am so so sorry.

Nancy said...

What a beautiful eulogy. It makes me wish I could have known him, too. I'm really sorry for your loss.

Busy_Woman said...

Nita, I'm so sorry for your loss. I wish there was something I could do for you and Rio.

dailypiglet said...

this was beautifully written nita, i'm sorry for your loss.

i keep thinking that it was an amazing opportunity that you found him, and had such a beautiful relationship with him.

i am grateful that i got so much time with my dad the last three months of his life, yet often wish it could have been more months.

Diana said...

Oh my God Nita I'm so sorry.
I don't have words...I'm happy that you got to meet him despite the obstacles. I'm glad Rio met him and loved him...
Hugs for you...

I'm sorry.

Alice said...

oh nita... i'm so, so sorry. i'm behind on my blogs and just read this now. your eulogy was beautiful - it makes me wish i had him in MY life, too :-)

many, many internet hugs.

Kelly said...

My heartfelt condolences.

Beth said...

Oh Nita,
I'm weeping for you. That is so hard.

Wishing for you peace and whatever perseverance you can stand.

and much love...

Kimberly Berry said...

Nita - thanks for letting us know; we share in your sorrow.

Diana said...

thinking of you...

michael said...

Sorry for your loss. I wish the eulogy I gave at each of my parents' funerals were as eloquent as this.

Of course, we wish we didn't have to give eulogies.

Best wishes,

Michael
makeminemike.blogspot.com