Eighty Five Years Ago Today…

Happy Birthday, Dad.  August 30, 1923.  Oddly enough, during my visit to The Park Friday to take Mom to see an estate planning attorney, she gave me a box of “stuff” from her recent excavations.  Among dusty story books i wrote when i was 9 years old, my Girl Scout uniform and the linens Dad’s mother made for her marriage bed?  Dad’s last drivers license and the ID card for his years teaching at the applied technology college… 

Rather than try to write something meaningful – while i remain up to my nipples in boxes and crates – i’ve dusted off the eulogy i gave at Dad’s funeral.  Not my best work – done in an overnight frenzy while i was frantically assembling illegally downloaded tunes for the visitation and service… The best words?  They are his… i had the first two rough chapters his own memoirs as a guide…

April 21, 2001 – In a Methodist church filled with about 150 thoughtful humans…

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Finding my groove

It was a gorgeous spring day on my last trip to The Park to take Mom to visit the surgeon – a momentary break in the monsoon allowed the sun to appear, bringing overdue warmth.  As part of our “doctors appointment” ritual, i always walk through the house when i drop her off, performing an assortment of tasks that need doing* – everything from changing light bulbs, to taking out the trash, to reviewing insurance paperwork and writing down the medical info du jour. 

Last week, she asked if i could take a look on the back porch to see what needed doing to get it ready for summer.  A concrete patio, with a small raised deck for flowers, all covered by a corrugated aluminum awning, it’s not a “Home and Garden” showplace.  Just a place for fresh air – away from the stale, “three pack a day” air inside the house.

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Two conversations with my father…

On the drive back from The Park last Friday, i was tired.  I’d been up late the night before at an awkward dinner event, then up before dawn in order to pick up Mom in time to make an 8:45 am appointment with the cardiologist.  Events of the morning were exhausting, but i was still facing an afternoon in the office after an hour-long drive.

After leaving Mom’s house, i had a powerful urge to visit my father’s grave – but i had an afternoon meeting, and couldn’t take the time.  Instead, i just had a chat with him in the car.  Something i’ve done before…  Typically the conversations start with “I’m trying… ” or “I’m really sorry…”.

Last Friday it was “Holy Fucking Shit!”*

A little background is in order.  While Dad was dying, we had time to talk.  No, not the actual “moment of death”**, but the four months leading up to his death.  There were several lengthy hospitalizations, and i spent many hours in his room, reading the paper while he slept, providing basic care, talking to doctors and nurses, or chatting when he was in the mood to talk.

During one of these conversations, we discussed his concerns about the inhabitants of The Park after he died.  When i was about 30 years old, prior to a trip to Europe, my parents made me executor of their estate.  I’m the youngest of four, but it had become clear that i was the only one with sufficient stability (not to mention CRZY MATH SKILZ) to handle the task.  During this particular conversation, Dad was pointing out that it was going to fall to me to look after the family when he was gone.

daisyfae:  But i’m the youngest!  It was in my contract that i’m supposed to skip through life responsibility-free!  i’m the carefree hippie…. the baby!

Dad:  Sorry.  You’re “Number One Son”.  You’re it…

daisyfae:  [sigh] Ok.  i promise i’ll look out for them…

And i have.  Well, at least i’ve tried.  Dad died in 2001.  The past 7 years have contained multiple moments of “you can’t be serious?” sprinkled with way too much “i could not possibly make this shit up”.  i haven’t even scratched the surface yet in my posts…

i have followed Kipling’s advice – “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you” – to the best of my ability…

There is, however, a perfect storm brewing, and it’s testing the limits of my patience.  And my ability to keep the promise i made my Father.  As i spiral into menopause, no prospect of hormonal supplements because of that pesky breast cancer nugget last year, i have the potential to become highly nonlinear.  As the family faces “end of life” issues with Mom***, they have the potential to become highly nonlinear, not to mention, increasingly stupid.  Not a scenario for peace and harmony, that’s for sure….

Conjuring my Dad in the car that afternoon, i simply asked for a bit of clarification…

daisyfae:  Let’s take a look at that promise, shall we?  i said i’d “look out” for them.  Could that be interpreted as “Look out!  Here they come!”?

Dad:  [….]


* It was Good Friday and all…

** Generally recognized as poor taste to talk about “stuff” when doctors are disconnecting life support, religious officials are attempting to officiate and the like.

*** Reference: The Lion King, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Mecchi & Roberts, 1994.

you’re never fully dressed…

When Dad died, I was surprised by the overwhelming number of minor decisions that had to be made – even though he had made his wishes known regarding the ‘big stuff’ (no life support, no heroic measures, no plastic flowers on his grave*…)

In the days before the funeral, family members dealt with different pieces of the puzzle – one of my jobs was to bring clothing to the funeral home.  Amidst a million other errands, i flew into the house, quickly went over the items Mom had prepared, then ran out to get the clothing to the funeral home by the requested delivery time.

Walking into the office at the funeral home, i was greeted by a receptionist – exhibiting the demeanor of a woman who had seen much and reacted to little.

And then it hit me.  I didn’t say “hello”, or “I’m bringing clothing for…” or anything else… The only word I could utter?


The unruffled receptionist politely said “I beg your pardon?”

I whispered, in complete shock: “Pants!  I don’t have his pants…”

She remained calm, and said “We fully dress here…” **

Choking back a fit of the giggles, I held up a finger and managed to tell her “I’ll be right back”.

I raced back to the house, where Mom and my sister (and fellow refugee) T, were dealing with other issues.  Breathless, i ran inside, and stood before them in the dining room.  I asked the same question: “Pants?”

T turns immediately to Mom and blurts out “SEE!!!!  I told you he needs pants!  Nobody’s sending my ass out of this world without my fucking pants!”

And then came the stress giggles…


* Mom is a packrat.  One particularly annoying ‘collection’ is of cheap, dusty, faded and completely horrible plastic flowers.  My Dad hated these things – and one of the deathbed promises i made was to assure him that there would be no plastic flowers on his grave.  It’s a constant battle, but i’m tenacious…

** During preparations for my Grandmother’s funeral, i was surprised to learn that it was a local (Appalachian) custom to only dress the corpse from the waist up – since the casket would only be half-open during visitation.  Grandma was buried in her bloomers, pantyhose and the top half of a pantsuit.  I find many burial rituals bizarre and barbaric, but this one seemed particularly goofy.  I’ve often wondered if it somehow originated from depression-era frugality.  I have yet to find much documentation on this practice. 

What a long strange trip it’s been…

While Dad was in the hospital, there were many opportunities to sit and talk – and more importantly, listen.  Towards the end some of his medications caused hallucinations.  We were never sure if we were getting history or electric dreams!

One night at dusk, i was in his room reading the newspaper while he dozed.  He quietly awakened and said “Did you know that G was a transvestite?”

I put down the paper.

G was the second husband of my oldest sister, S.  He was a tall, painfully thin, bearded stoner.  Probably 6’2″, with a 24″ waist – 130 lbs (soaking wet while wearing SCUBA gear).  Nice enough guy, but not a man i could easily picture in a dress.  Not a man i would want to picture in a dress.

“No, i hadn’t heard that… really?”

Dad got a goofy grin on his face, and nodded his head vigorously.  We both got the giggles, to the point where tears were streaming down our faces.  He seemed to tire, and was soon asleep again. 

Racking this up to another hallucination, i went back to the newspaper and didn’t give it a second thought.

Within days, all hell broke loose for him medically.  He was admitted to the intensive care unit, semi-comatose.   That night, after going over the medical information with my siblings, i remembered the moment. 

Looking at S, i asked “Did you tell Dad that G was a transvestite?”


“Well he got the biggest damn laugh out of that when he told me the other night… giggled and snorted like a school girl…”

And then she and i both got a ridiculous case of the “stress giggles”, which is more than a little bit awkward in the waiting room of a hospital intensive care unit.


* A week after S married G, she woke up and found him in bed next to her wearing a silk nightgown and panties…. both items belonging to his mother.  Months later, S asked Mom what she should do.  Mom informed S that ‘all marriages have problems, and you just need to make it work’.  S stayed with her second husband for 15 years, and never told another soul about it.  I’ll probably have more stories about G later… he was pretty special.


I’ve yet to write much about my Dad – not sure i’m ready.  He died in 2002.  Rather than tackle that, here’s an indirect look, providing another glimpse of life in The Park.

Dad was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer in 1998.  The prognosis was grim, with somewhere between 6-12 months expected.  Mom, a retired psych nurse, proved to be a rather remarkable caregiver, devoting incredible energy to keeping him alive.  He lived until 2002, and of the last years, there were some good moments and her efforts gave us more time.

Genetically, we are not a family of ‘wasting away’ people – even after over 3 years of chemo, he was still around 260 lbs when he died.  After a fall in his room, it became obvious that we might need to rearrange the clutter in the house to allow better access for the emergency squad if necessary.

I suggested to Mom that we temporarily move a bookcase full of old record albums to the garage to clear a path down the hallway.   This was reinforced by my brother-in-law, a paramedic. 

Her response:  “We’ll just go out the window with him…”

Before i could censor myself: “Did you just say that a bookcase full of dusty old records is more important to you than my dying father’s dignity?”

Defensively – “that’s not what i said…”

“Well that’s what i heard”.

My brother-in-law and i quietly moved the bookcase to the garage that weekend.  And after Dad died, i moved it back without fanfare. 

Every time i visit, i see it sitting there, amidst the overwhelming clutter.  Unused.  Covered with dust. Still pissing me off…

Things before people. 

Not a conscious thing…hardwired into her.  Growing up during the depression did that to some people.  But it’s always there – and i’m still trying to let it go.