(Continuation of the post: Steadfast, Undaunted, and Valorous)
We lived in Wisconsin and the winters, when I was younger, were very snowy. My dad did all the maintenance of our outdoor property, which included; snow blowing. He snow-blowed our driveway, sidewalk, and porch as well as, many of our close neighbor’s sidewalks and driveways. During the winter time my father also jarred pickles, made fudge and cheesecakes, and gave out care packages to the mailman, friends, and neighbors. He also, for many years, chose a family at Christmas time to give one of these care packages to; along with his bonus check money from work. One year he chose the family of one of my classmates. Her mom was so extremely grateful for his kind gesture, since she and her four children had just claimed bankruptcy following her husband’s embezzlement and prison sentence. The story made the local news, and my dad felt they deserved some good news that Christmas season.
These are the things that give me warmth and make me feel I was the luckiest little girl alive to have had a father who stood for his convictions and expected, from others, nothing more than what he was willing to do himself. He was a positive man who could get fired up about something, yet never held too much of a grudge and relaxed when he needed to. Kind but firm. He took care of the people and things he was closest to and spent most of his time at home. My parents argued about money and my mother talking on the phone too much, but they always loved each other and made an effort to make it work. He was physically tough, had a wonderful sense of humor, and barely complained. The one quote I will never forget, because it was his number one phrase directed at me, the worrier, was:”Everything will be okay.” He didn’t just say it, he convinced me that he meant it, and I was confident in his ability to take care of anything that came our way!
Unfortunately, on June 18, 1996 he lost the ability to make everything okay. While I was in the shower, after getting home from my camping trip, I was thinking about my mom mentioning that she could not get in contact with my dad. She just kept getting the dreadful recorded message, “The person you are trying to reach is unavailable at this time, please try your call again later.” All of a sudden, as I was showering, the thought, “My daddy’s dead,” went through my head; as if it was told to me in that instance. Then I just finished up, not thinking much about it.
I don’t precisely remember the next order or detail of events, other than I was clothed and not in a towel at the the moment the phone rang. The call itself is permanently etched into my memory. My brother answered and began asking questions like, “Is he alright,” and “Where is he…can we see him,” and then the dreaded look came on his face as he peered towards us; head curved back toward the wall, hesitant eyes staring straight at us, and spoke the words, “Dad’s dead.” My mother let out the most ear-piercing, bloodcurdling scream I have ever heard in my entire life, while falling on her knees to the floor. This is something that cannot be practiced or rehearsed in any way to prepare someone for the reaction they will have when a primordial event like this takes place. It was a raw, unmeditated, impulsive reaction, and I felt it deep within me. The whole experience was an internal sucker-punch to my soul.