Wednesday, August 07, 2013


there is mud on my desk from photographing the boot my father was wearing when he died, for the insurance company. my heart is as heavy as his watch feels on my arm. it has been nearly two months since my father was killed in a motorcycle accident, and i have only just begun to believe it.

there is a staggering weight of paperwork associated with death, especially a death related to a traffic accident. it begins almost literally the moment that a person dies, and it feels very much like it may never end, even though it's only been two months, and i believe the finish line is close before us. in the case of my father, it has meant planning and executing a funeral, dealing with a cremation and the resulting ashes, obtaining death certificates, changing bank accounts, backing up and changing passwords for his computer, extracting contacts and photographs from his ruined phone, filing claims with two separate insurance companies related to the accident itself, talking to claims adjusters and handlers till i am blue in the face, and supporting my mother as she has dealt with the administration of his estate, the vehicles, the financial investments, the yard and the house, the dogs, the letters and the thank-you notes. we are not done. we are hip deep in liability and property settlements with the insurance companies. the boy who hit my father has a court date pending next week. each milestone brings me and my mother and brother and sister closer to the moment when we have to face that it is done and that my father is truly dead and gone.

my grandmother died last fall at 94. my great-grandfather lived to be 99, almost 100. my father was 76 and in fantastic health for his age. he was active and taking care of himself. he was still sharp as a tack. and i admit, i expected to have another 20 years of him with me on this earth. i feel robbed. i feel like at any second, someone could come in and tell me that this was a horrible mistake, and that really he is alive and well. i know this is all normal. it's odd how you can compartmentalize so much, and then be so utterly taken aback by some detail that you don't expect. i was helping my mother assess the blue book value of one of my father's trucks, and i went to the truck to get the manual. i opened the door, and it smelled like him. that was my worst moment so far, by a wide mile--like a punch in the gut.

my father was a strong man, seemingly invincible. he was often kinder and more generous with strangers than he was with his family. from us, he expected near-perfection, and was satisfied with no less. he was harsh sometimes, but all of us loved him in spite of that. his often gruff exterior hid, many times, a desire to help and take care of us all. sometimes not--sometimes it was more about control. it's been an interesting experience to see how my outward facing father was respected and loved, and it's been eye opening how different a person can be on the outside and the inside. i will miss the man forever, even though i often wanted to kill him myself. he and my mother raised me to be an independent thinker, and then i think maybe they regretted that when i turned out to disagree with so many of their beliefs about things, especially my dad's. and yet, he had my respect, always, even in the darkest of times. and my love, too.

no matter how it comes, losing a parent simply sucks. losing one so suddenly is a strange thing. i am happy for my father that his death was not a long, lingering illness that robbed him of his self or his dignity or his mind. i am happy that he had a good day the day he died, and that he died doing something he loved. and yet--i am so unprepared for it! there were no goodbyes. it had been too long since i had seen him. i have no idea what the last thing i said to him was, and i will never know. i hope i told him i loved him. but even if i didn't, i know that he knew. i am grateful beyond words that there was no unfinished business between us when he died.

i am sure this will not be the last i write about him--this is just the beginning of me processing everything after a summer of tumult. it is heavy on my soul today because of another sudden death. and in the end, as trite as it sounds, tell your people you love them. tell them over and over. give them hugs and kisses and caring. it ends too soon.