day ten, part II

January 27, 2009

I realized today I’ve been spending all the executive functioning in my brain everyday for the last 10 days trying to figure out all the details of my dad’s death, plus the one’s we need to know about his life in order to deal with his death. And that was not working for me. At all. Not only to I have to get sleep but I’ve got to narrow down the scope of decisions we need to make. And soon.

Plus, there’s this boat load of people kinda on the periphery and some who are “knocking at the door” – like the Catholic priests, a pushy funeral director, strangers on the phone at the VA and the bank and the Social Security Administration, the adult children of my dad’s last marriage whom none of us have ever met, an old lady friend of my dad’s who claims my dad was storing stuff for her in his house (including her deceased husband’s ashes), and some other folks who are going unnamed for right now because it would probably just hurt my family’s feelings to even mention them here.

No one tells you that it’s like this. That it’s the brutal task of making a bunch of decisions and you’re not even sure who you are making them for. You get to a point where you just to get it over with. You don’t want to make another fucking decision or phone call, but you have to. No one else is gonna do it. No one else can.  And the one dude that could have shed the most helpful light on the subject is dead. And he was pretty tight lipped on the matter beforehand. So now it’s our job. We have to bury my dad. And we’d like to do it some grace and dignity, which is hard to conjure up when trying decipher the pricing list from a funeral home that looks about as easy read to as papers from a mortgage broker. The shape of these days.

Just to top it off. Just because day ten needed to be the noisier than the preceding nine, my mom wrecked her car today. And tonight, after a really nice visit with RU over here at my house, when she left she found the wall of her rear tire had blown out and of course she needs to drive tomorrow. Luckily, I don’t. I can bus it. But dang, man. That shit ain’t fair.

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day ten

January 26, 2009

Learning curve -not getting sleep is making me sick. And when random thoughts cross my mind about understanding that sleep deprivation could be used as torture, it’s a sign I need to go to bed. Oh man. This is weird. And the getting sick thing is humbling because by and large I am a hardy dude. I come from a long line of hardiness on both sides, maybe not always the best luck, but hardy.

The other thing I’m learning is to connect to people, however I can make that connection, which may look kind of complicated and untraditional, but it’s still me reaching out. That’s part of why I’m blogging.


day seven, eight and nine

January 26, 2009

Day seven was about making day six’es phone calls except I had the right SS#.  And then there was this nice visit with my sister, who already had plans to be in town for my niece’s volleyball tournament, which was the best part of day seven and eight. It’s fun to watch my niece turn into a bad ass on the court. And it pleases me to know she read an email I sent to my sister extolling that exact sentiment in a heartfelt, “right the fuck on!” My niece liked that email so much she got my sister to print it out and taped the message to her wall. Then, at my sister’s request before I left the tournament, when I said good-bye to my niece, I lowered my voice and said, “that last play, right the fuck on.” My niece smiled so big and replied, “thank you.” Best damn part of day eight, the one week anniversary of my dad dying.

I left the tournament and spent the rest of day eight in bed. Feeling sick and incredibly tired. I know it could be stressed induced, but whatever. I feel better today, day nine, which is really the beginning of week two. The second week of living with a dead father. Death has not cut through the complexity of my relationship with my father. It’s added a new layer full of details I only guessed at what it would be like to deal with.  Funeral homes, coroners, financial statements, attorneys, sheriffs, and on and on and on.

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day five and six

January 23, 2009

On day five, I called a bunch of places with my dad’s SS#, but it wasn’t the right SS# number. Nice. Day six, I tried to call a couple of those places back, like the VA, and the call volume was so high the computer generated voice told me to call back. I’ve always hated automated phone scripts, but right now I find them particularly soul sucking. Yesterday when I called Social Security Admin, I went through this inane exchange where I kept saying my dad’s name and spelling it and the phone system kept getting it wrong. I would say Truman then spell it out, t-r-u-m-a-n, and the computer would say Tree and spell it back t-r-e-e. That sucked.

Day five was also marked by a marathon family phone conference, complete with all the things that seem normal when someone dies in a fire without leaving behind any instructions, recaps of calls with Sheriffs, Fire Marshalls and Coroners, debating different funeral plans, the random exchange of memories, doling out new tasks and scheduling the next call.

Day sisx, today, I woke up feeling sick. Went to work. Came home and tried to sleep. Without luck. I really, realy, hate throwing up. I hope I don’t.

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day four

January 21, 2009

I agree with editor B.  He summarized the historic and proud nature of today much better than I can right now. I watched the inauguration at work, sitting in the factory lunch room with a big group of employees, mostly folks from the floor. And mostly folks from the floor are immigrants. And that felt really right to me.

I talked to a Hamilton Country Sheriff today and to the Deputy Fire Marshall in Carmel.  They were very nice to me. For some reason I want to mention them here even though I thanked them on the phone.  It’s like I want to document and connect with every person who’s come into some kind of contact with my dad. The sheriff told me something I didn’t know but did not surprise me and that is my dad had been carrying around his Marine ID card in his wallet since 1946.  Of course. To me it makes perfect sense. There’s not much left of it. Not because of the fire, but because it’s 63 years old. But for my dad, it’s just like it was yesterday. That’s what my dad told me once.  It was like WWII was yesterday. This other guy, this stand up guy who was my dad’s emergency contact, and who is being soooo good to us, he told me today how my dad’s Marine unit suffered this horribly high casualty rate. Horribly high. This guy said, “your dad must have been charmed”. Funny thing was this woman said the same to me this summer, which pissed me off at the time.


day three

January 20, 2009

Truman with James in Washington D.C.

Originally uploaded by proteanme
My sister and I are exchanging emails with subject lines, like “burial” and “obit”. It’s a mad race to mine our brains for the details we might be overlooking before we set in to motion the actual plans. And everyone’s got their way of tackling the task. My sister’s started a word doc with her list of things to do. My mom is gathering her info in an actual notebook. And me, I’ve just stapled together pieces of scrap paper with my notes and created a “dad” label in gmail and “dad” tag in delicious. Tomorrow I’ll be doing things like calling the coroner and the fire marshall and the post office and the veteran’s affairs office. But tomorrow is a historic day. And I don’t believe I’ll have much luck with any of these calls because all eyes and ears will be turned on Washington D.C. History, with a capital “H” is happening tomorrow.

But history with a small “h” doesn’t really care. Not the history that is happening in my life.

My dad grew up in D.C. Or at least grew up there until he was in high school. He lived in D.C. because he was adopted by his grandparents after his parents divorced and his mom died. His grandfather, my great grandfather, was a federal judge. And I’ve heard rumor my dad watched inaugural parades from his grandfather’s office. As an aside, I’m also proud to say (in that strange and irrational way that one takes pride in one’s ancestors and lineage) that my great grandfather was also the Dean of Howard Law School and worked to get the law school accredited.

The picture here is of my dad with James. James worked in my dad’s house. And if you asked my dad, he would tell you that James and his wife Sally helped him raise him. This might be as close to a father son photo as there is of my dad.

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Day two – another thought

January 19, 2009

I was just watching Homer Simpson apologize to Lisa through  a crossword puzzle and I lost it.

I was thinking that maybe your dad doesn’t stop being your dad because he died; maybe he just becomes your dead dad.


day two

January 19, 2009

I have learned two things today. The first is about the mysteries of life. And what I learned is that they involve a lot of phone calls. And paper work.  I always thought the great mysteries would involve something much more heroic and romantic. But apparently it’s more about figuring out who’s going to call what agency or office to track down what info. To some degree or another my family is going to be project managing my dad’s death. I am a good project manager.

The second thing I learned is that I will be getting to know my dad better in his death than I knew him in his life. Bittersweet. For sure. I learned today fifty people have already called my dad’s old boss because they want to find out if we are planning a service. I learned that there every Memorial day my dad went to Crown Hill cemetary to attend the veteran’s service and lay flowers on his cousin’s grave, the one who was like a brother to him, the one who died at Battle of the Bulge. I learned that when my dad’s best friend was sick and everyone else stopped coming around, my dad was there for his friend. He did things no one else would do for his friend. I learned my dad didn’t have a refridgerator in his house for a long time. Nothing shocking and all things I suspected. He was a nice guy. And he was one of a kind.

The thing is I’ve always intellectually understood my dad could be close, in his own way, to other people even if he couldn’t be close to us. I’ve never embraced it though. And now we’re about to be submerged. I’ve been on the periphery a couple times in my life of the phenomena that is my dad. Met some folks who were fascinated to meet me just because I was Truman’s daughter. I’ve been greeted with welcomes “no shit” and “I’ll be damned”.  Just never done it en mass.

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life on life’s terms

January 18, 2009

Or not. Unless we’re talking the wh0le shebang. As in life’s beginning and end.

And that’s what we’re talking about.

Right now as I’m typing I’m pretty sure my sister is talking with the Marion County Coroner who has emailed my sister a photo of my dad’s tattooed arm so that she can identify my dad’s body. Apparently there was a fire at my dad’s house this morning. Firefighters found him. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

It’s been an hour or two since I started this post. My sister made the ID. Then she called me after wards. She said the coroner was incredibly nice to her. I asked my sister to send me the photo of my dad’s arm and she did. I needed to see him. Get his death in my mind more concretely. I am so far away and my dad was mostly absent from my life even without all this geographical distance. Add onto that the suddenness of it his death and it was just getting to abstract. I don’t know if this is the right place to air these thoughts. But I think I just want to be witnessed. The experience of having him in my life was not known to many folks and I don’t want his passing to have the same kind of loneliness.

When I was talking to my sister today she told me the sweetest story about my dad comforting her once as a kid when she was sad and angry with him. It was a little heartbreaking, the story she told me, but I was grateful for the tenderness of it.  I think my sister and I both harbored secret fantasies that maybe one day we’d have some heartfelt conversation with our dad about his absence in our lives. It never happened; now, it never will. I was trying to think of my last conversation with my dad. I talked to him on the phone maybe twice a year and it was usually around the holidays. But this Christmas he was sick and we didn’t connect, so that means the last time I talked to him was before the holidays. I think that was when we were talking about this Byzantine church he goes to and I asked him if I could go with him the next time I came home. And he said, “I dunno.” And when I pressed him on it he said,”I gotta go.”

I miss him. I always have.

Thank you all for being my witness here. It means the world to me.



January 4, 2009

Sometimes I hate loving things too much. Or loving anything at all. And I go about the business of shutting down, turning off the music and putting down the pen, eating junk, doing nothing on the computer and buying stuff I don’t need, except with less and less excess and vigor as I get older. I swear it’s like I can’t even put my heart into being shut down. I just go through the motions. Which is what I’ve been doing since I came back from my trip out east. But then something happens like a friend sends an email to say she enjoyed finishing off the dish I brought to her pot luck and was feeling dubious about. And at the last minute RU came to dim sum with me this morning and we had a real nice time.  And later I talked to my sister, who I haven’t talked to in months and it made my day. Made my day even if I didn’t want it to because I’m not sure I want anything to make my day because made days are as impossible as unmade ones. I understand life is impossible. It really is. You don’t get to negotiate with it at all. Fariness is an illusion. Seriously. I’m trying to figure out how to be ok with that. Curious even. I’m not one for resolutions. But I’ve been working with how to be curious about impossibilities for about 6 years. Here’s to year number seven.