Today marks two years since my father died. My relationship with my father over the years was sometimes tumultuous. He was an alcoholic. In my younger years, I realized he was different than other dads. I knew he loved me, but after I left for college, and he left my mom, it finally hit me. The one thing that was truly most important to him in life was alcohol. After that realization, I experienced a flood of emotions from anger to disappointment, from hurt to sadness. And I was pretty vocal to him about those feelings, and what I thought about his relationship with alcohol. It all fell on deaf ears.
After a couple of years, I let it go. He had moved away and his drinking didn’t effect me on a daily basis. He was an adult, it was his choice and his life. I would say our relationship was as normal as it could be, right up until I received a call from a caseworker at a hospital in California. He had been admitted and due to the HIPPA laws, she couldn’t tell me what was wrong with him. I finally asked, “If this was your dad, would you be on the next plane?” She said, “Yes.” So I was.
After arriving at the hospital, I had one doctor tell me he had a maximum of 6 weeks to live, if he didn’t have another drink. Another doctor tell me he maybe had 6 months. My dad told me his “number wasn’t up”, and he wasn’t going anywhere. He was right. He lived for another 6 years.
That stay in the hospital was a huge wake-up call for him. He didn’t drink, to my knowledge, for about a year and a half. He lived in a small town, and some of his friends would check on him regularly. When he fell off the wagon, I received a call from his friend. I called him and tried to reason with him and remind him how important it was that he didn’t drink ~ for him it was life or death. He seemed to get it and didn’t drink for another couple of years.
He eventually fell off the wagon for good. At one point he had moved to Denver and was close to me so I could take him to doctor’s appointments and have him over for holidays, etc… After a little over a year, he ended up deciding to move to the warmer climate of Phoenix.
He was drinking again, and now he was moving away. I wouldn’t be able to get there quickly if something was to happen to him. I went through all the emotions, again. And, I voiced them all to him, again. I could tell he didn’t want to hear it. And, my biggest “ah-ha” moment was when he said, “you can’t tell me what to do or how to live my life.” Wow! He was so right!
When it really sank in, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I couldn’t tell him how to live his life. And if I couldn’t tell him how to live his life, I wasn’t responsible for how he lived his life or the choices he made. The choices were his. The decisions were his. It really had nothing to do with me. It was his relationship with alcohol and it had nothing to do with anyone else.
After that moment, our relationship changed again. This time, I think for the better. He was making his decisions and when he wanted my input he would ask. We talked about once a week, and I visited him in Phoenix a couple of times.
The last time I saw him was January, 2013. He died April 24,2013. I think our relationship was at one of the best places it had been my whole life. I didn’t agree with his choices, and it still hurt alcohol was so important to him, even more important than his own life. But I learned to accept and love him for who he was and his good heart, regardless of the choices he made.
When I got the call about his death I was not surprised. I was sad because he died alone. But I don’t think he would have been sad because he was living the life he wanted.
His final wish was to have his ashes scattered at sea. My husband and I were able to fulfill his final wish recently on a trip to San Diego.
I did my research on transporting ashes on an airplane as well as what the California laws were with regards to scattering ashes. According to California law, you can’t scatter ashes off a pier or at a beach. You must scatter ashes 500 feet off the shore. We had to charter a boat, there are plenty to choose from online, and the captain took us out for two hours. We had a fabulous experience on a perfect day. We even saw a whale while we were at sea.
We were able to play the songs Anchors Aweigh, for his service in the Navy, and I Did it My Way…because he did. We put his ashes in a basket and laid flowers on top of the ashes and lowered them into the ocean. It was simple and beautiful. He would have loved it.
My dad and I had our ups and downs throughout the years, but I feel in the end, we had come to an understanding that worked for us. I will always love my dad, and I miss him everyday.
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