MY FATHER’S PASSING, PART 1 – THE BEGINNING

MY FATHER’S PASSING, PART 1 – THE BEGINNING

I have been circling this writing for more than a year. It was by far the most horrendous event I have been witness to in my personal life. More so then when strange men came into our home when I was a teen with guns, threatened us and caused us to have to live in a car for over a year with an actual contract out on our family. Worse then being evicted from multiple places to live. Worse then not having enough food so that I would get stretch marks that didn’t go away until I was in my 20s from losing weight by the end of of the month. Even worse then horrible nights when there is an alcoholic rampage in the house.

It bothers me enough I still haven’t sat down and cried, instead I am so very angry at so many other people that I haven’t really talked to anyone about this but my husband Wolsey. I have found that trying to unpack it is a large undertaking and to be honest I don’t know if this even covers everything. This is about the circumstances before, during and shortly after my father passed away. I know I will miss details as I go. Hopefully Wolsey will point them out and I can update this post over time.

My father was a very complicated man. He loved his children very much, he had been in trouble with the system for most of his life, and he ended his life in poverty. He had an endless supply of love and acceptance for me and Wolsey. He would support us no matter what. However, his decision making had been damaged due to PTSD, mental health and most impactful was alcoholism.

We tried to help as much as we could, but he was proud, and he also knew we had our own bills so the best we could do was help out with some bills, some food and some extra stuff I knew they would like (below is a video of 60th birthday from March 24th, 2008, he always liked carrot cake).

That video is four years after he was diagnosed as terminal. He had been terminal for close to a decade. The spots on his lungs kept growing, but he kept trudging on. We didn’t realize how bad his health was, he kept it to himself, but even with as bad as it was, he still might have made it a couple more years.

I think about it now though; I think I knew he was closer subconsciously. One day in March the year before he passed I had traveled up to Bellingham by myself, in a rare non-Wolsey trip. For some reason a song came on my iPhone on the way home and I had to pull over and cry, I was worried about my dad and mom’s health out of the blue and I realize now I was already grieving.

He survived much longer than anyone had expected. He had gone back into the pulmonologist that had originally diagnosed him six years before and they all came out to visit. None of the staff thought he would have made it a year, let alone six. My dad just smiled and told them he was immortal, no one could kill him.

There was a saying all my friends and family joked about since I was 18. No mere mortal could kill John Bradley. He was tough, resourceful, and just enough luck that everyone believed he would survive just about any situation. In the past he had taken on multiple cops, Vietcong, members of other outlaw clubs and abusive family members when he was a child. This saying changed as he got sick though. Our saying didn’t change much, but it went to “He has one more good fight in him”, even his last year where he couldn’t walk very far from his chair we said he still had a good thirty seconds in him, and to be honest thirty seconds would still be enough for most circumstances.

I tell you all of this to give you some background on him. In the future, I will probably have a lot of amazing (and some terrible) stories about him.

It started in January of 2016. His health was fairly poor, and like usual he went in and out of the hospital as his lungs were getting worse. He had gotten out and was recovering. We had been up there a lot to look over him and my mom. Things seemed to be getting out of the weeds and back to normal.

It was then that we started preparing for the hubby’s top surgery. He was ready to go, and the night before my dad received news that an old friend of his Joe had passed away and this was a huge blow to my dad.

Most of my dad’s friends were gone. They were hard living outlaw motorcycle club members and he was on the other side of sixty. This meant those that didn’t go to prison and die there already were all in bad shape. Joe was the third to last friend my dad had (Jimbo and Dennis were his last friends). This is out of literally dozens of hardened men I grew up with and called family. It set my dad into a tailspin of depression.

My father is the one in the white shirt, a couple of months before his passing. Dennis, the last time he could come up and visit my dad is on his left holding his hand. My little brother Bear between then with my mom on my dad’s right and my nephew and niece Kristen and Wyatt.
Same people (mom, dad, Dennis, and his then GF Kristen) more than 25 years before.

I should have picked it up earlier. He had mentioned to me once in passing that lately he was missing my grandmother. She had passed away 30 years ago and I now realize he was probably feeling depression, lost and just not in a good headspace. It didn’t help that he was bipolar, and had severe depression/mania episodes.

From 1971/72 me as a child, my grandmother (dad’s mom), mom, and dad (both approx. 24 years old)

He called me one night, and I could hear the exhaustion and depression in his voice that night. I talked with him, reassured him and reminded him that the hubby and I would be up the next weekend. He perked up a bit and was excited about the surgery and the results. I hung up thinking everything would be fine. Things weren’t fine, and wouldn’t be fine for the next year.

The next day Wolsey went into surgery and while it was a successful surgery it was inundated with a lot of complications. No one had told us how bad he would leak from liposuction portion of the surgery would suck. The actual mastectomy went well, healed quickly, etc. The doctor’s office messed up though, they sent him home long before they should have and it left me by myself to take care of him. He couldn’t move well; he couldn’t clean up after his wounds and he was just hurting too much.

Wolsey almost a week later. Still exhausted.

At no point in time did I begrudge that. I am here for him, just like he was here for me for everything. It didn’t bother me to have to put in that effort of getting up every 20 minutes, help him to the bathroom, while he was in there clean up the bed, change bedding and then put him back to bed and give him more pain pills. He is my life, and it was the least I could give to him.

It was also at this time I got a call from my mom. My dad had gone back to the ER and his O2 wouldn’t stop falling. They had him on positive air and he could talk. They were discussing options about how to handle it.

Something snapped in him, or maybe it’s better to say a decision was made by him. He took the positive air off his face, got up and while the doctors were talking he went downstairs and had a cigarette. When he came back up, they told him he couldn’t do that anymore and that he would have to use the positive air for a large part of his life, or at least until they could get the O2 under control. I was told he just shrugged and told them to fuck off. He was done.

My dad and jumbo, sometime in 2000/2001.

He checked himself out of the hospital, meanwhile they were telling him he would die. He wasn’t going to let himself loose anymore of his freedom. I also think he had hit a depressive point again, his closest friends had passed, they weren’t ever going to make it back down to Lake Tahoe, or pretty much anywhere out of their apartment except for when I could take them places.

He decided to do this on his terms and he took their info for hospice and went home and determined that is where he would pass. My mom told me this over the phone and in my head, I was freaking out. My dad was dying, probably wouldn’t be longer than a week or so and I couldn’t leave that night at all since Wolsey couldn’t take care of himself.

The worst part is Wolsey couldn’t take care of himself at all for the next few days. It was unlikely he could get up to Bellingham before my father passed. Meanwhile I knew I would have to drive up there daily (a 250+ mile roundtrip) that I would have to fit around being home to take care of Wolsey. I couldn’t imagine it ever being worse.

I was wrong, a thousand times wrong once the hospice situation happened. However, that part of the story is still coming up and I think I have mulled about it enough for today.

Memory: High Street (Bellingham)

The place I lived longest in Bellingham was on High Street. We moved here I believe winter of 88 and I moved out from my parents in 1990. We were a few blocks down from Western Washington University, about a mile up from Bellingham High School and next door to my two best friends, Doug and Wolsey.It was here that I spent two summers gaming down at Eagle’s Games, when I became close friends to Wolsey (I was best friends with Doug and he was dating Wolsey).

During this time Wolsey and I became best friends and Doug went his own way. This is also when I met Disa, Bryon and a ton of other friends like Weylin.

It was also where I lived when I was working full time as a teenager and supporting my family, my parents were totally out of action due to alcoholism, and it was also where I lived when I almost joined a motorcycle club (they were family friends).

Link back to a listing of all homes I have lived in.

Memory: Iron Street (Bellingham)

Iron Street was a place we stayed at for about 6-7 months. Sometime late Summer/early Fall of 1987 through early Spring of 1988.

It was a three bedroom one bath house. It is where I first started reading Piers Anthony’s  the White Gold Wielder series, the Xanth  series I had read back in Lake Stevens. The house had a kennel area that Mucho and Thirty Eight, our two dogs, used during the day.

There were definitely more memories from this place. My parents alcoholism was fairly rampant with some dry spells, my dad’s PTSD from Vietnam was hitting a crescendo and we had periods of no power and not much food. The most important part is this is where I lived here when I first met my husband. Also when our family started to befriend the local motorcycle club that was around me in my late teen years.

There was a grocery store nearby (which is now a Trader Joes, and a strip mall), an local shop that sold trees during Christmas and the high school was still only a few blocks away. It is also where I first watched Star Trek: The Next Generation on network TV. Overall not the worst place we had lived, but definitely was in the process of the downward slide my family had started back in Everett. Also definitely a place that I have stuff I will post about later.

Link back to a listing of all homes I have lived in.

 

Memory: Virginia Street (Bellingham)

Current Day (2017) front view

Our first actual place we lived in Bellingham was a small 2 bedroom, 1000 square foot house. They currently say its 1.75 bathrooms but I believe there was only a single bathroom when we lived there.

All I remember about this place is feeling safe for the first time in a long time. Not completely safe, my parents alcoholism started on a downslide here (and didn’t let up until long after I moved away as an adult). However, we didn’t have to worry about people kicking in the door and shooting everyone.

Current day (2017) side view.

The place itself is one of those shotgun houses. Meaning it was long and thin. It had an enclosed porch (which I am sure they count as part of that 1,000 square foot) that my sister slept in. While my brother and I shared the bedroom all the way in the back (I believe it was parallel to the kitchen which also went to the back of the building. There was a living and a second bedroom my parents used that was between the porch and my room/kitchen.

I don’t have a lot of memories I will talk about in this post from here. Except this is when I was listening to Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” song a lot and first learned about Elfquest comics. I also lived here when I helped with Camp Horizon, and also the first time I had a girl come over to talk with me, which my dad saw and he later asked why I wasn’t going out with her. I can’t remember her name now, but she was cute, I was shy and my dad was questioned why I wasn’t riding that train.

The place was only a couple of blocks from Bellingham High School so it was easy to get to school. It was also where I lived when I met Doug and Jay for the first time, started running them Dungeons and Dragons and where I started moving away from the future trajectory of being a biker and being involved in things that weren’t good for me (also all future posts).

We eventually moved to Iron Street, next door basically late summer. It was a bigger house, same landlord and a place for both of our dogs to go. There will be at least a few more posts about specific things here I think, but that is it for the place itself.

Link back to a listing of all homes I have lived in.

Memory: Forest Street (Bellingham) – First place in town

What now exists on 1020 N. Forest in 2017

It is funny, I can’t remember the exact date we arrived in Bellingham. I believe it was sometime in late winter/early spring of 1987, all I can be sure of is that it was cold outside. We had just moved away from our Lora Lane trailer and a series of motels right after that, and then finally into our place here.

My dad believed we were safe to try and find a place to live. The contract that was out on us had been rescinded from what we could tell. He had spent a few weeks contacting his old friends and for the first time in almost two years he seemed to breath. I suspect that everyone else involved knew the guy who put it out was full of shit and refused to do anything about it and Mike was heading back to California.

We were put up in temporary housing, at 1020 N. Forest. It was a three story house, divided up into different apartments and we lived in the top for couple of months.

Sadly I don’t have many memories from there. I do remember an incident where my dad was cutting his own hair, but the razor tool used to blend hair was sharper then he expected and had cut too closely, and he was so pissed about it. That was a sore subject for a couple of weeks.

Another memory was taking my sister who was 12ish at the time and my brother who was 6ish and walking down Forest and then State streets. At the time it seemed like a huge distance we were covering, but it was probably only 8-10 blocks out and then back. We were exploring the area, and we had never been in Bellingham before. I think we got as far down as Ellis St as a cross street. It was a grayish day, overcast and it was a weird relief to not be in a car again. It was also the first time in years my parents didn’t get anxious when we went off to be kids without their supervision.

The other biggest memory I have from living there, other than watching Trapper John M.D., was the food co-0p. The Bellingham Food Co-Op was a tiny hole in the wall store at this time. It was the one place within walking distance that would take food stamps, and it wasn’t very expensive (unlike what its like now).

It was probably the only time as a kid we could afford to eat at a co-op. For some reason I really remember the Pina Colada juice they sold. I tried drinking it a few years ago and it seems so much more watery now. I can’t be sure if that is just my memory fooling me, or if it really is a lot more watery.

I also remember that we had a view from the living room windows of Bellingham Bay. The house is set on a hill, and while there was lots of buildings down hill, it wasn’t until long after we lived here that tall enough buildings were built that may block the view. It was a nice view though.

Within two-three months of living there, we ended up moving over to the house on Virginia street and this place became a memory.

I went back in July 2017 to get pictures of the old house. It has long been torn down and the apartments replacing it (I am assuming college housing). I hadn’t looked for the house in about 20 years, so I suspect it could have been done even before we moved away from Bellingham. I figured I still wanted a picture of the spot now, just to go along with all the other places.

Link back to a listing of all homes I have lived in.

Memory: Leather Coats

Yesterday the hubby and I went to see Atomic Blonde, which we did enjoy. However, during the movie James McAvoy is wearing a leather coat, which for some reason sparked a memory that bothered me a lot.

A few years before my father’s death we were up visiting them and we noticed he didn’t have a nice coat. Unfortunately this was after my parents were financially bereft and they couldn’t afford to buy something. We decided we would keep an eye out for something he could wear that would look nice and would be something he would like.

It was about that time that Wolsey had a leather jacket, not a biker leather jacket but one of those cut and styled from the late 70s or early 80s. Something that was just in the perfect wheelhouse of fashion that my dad liked. The late 70s and into the 80s was my dad’s decade (even though for him he was in his thirties then). Wolsey had decided he didn’t want it and presented it to my dad as a gift. My dad thought it was great. He was wearing it around for a little while, that is until my brother was a douche one day.

One day, my brother decided to make fun of the jacket, saying it was a girl’s jacket. The only reason I can think that he would think that is because it wasn’t a biker leather jacket. I am not sure how he thought it was a girl’s jacket, maybe because he knew Wolsey gave it to him, or he forgot that there are other jacket styles but the now overdone biker jacket. I am sure my brother was trying to just rib my dad, but it came out as a dick move, and sadly my dad never wore that jacket again. He put it away, then eventually gave it away. Even though we told my dad it looked great and it didn’t look like a girl’s jacket.

To this day I am still really pissed at my brother for that. I didn’t realize it would take a movie to remind me of that memory.

Memory: Birch Bay (1986/87)

From September of 1986 through February 1987 we lived in Birch Bay Washington. We had been homeless for a long time, moving from Everett, to Lake Stevens, to Lake Tahoe, and then up and down the I-5 corridor until we ended up here as one stop in our travels. Actually I should say its two of our stops. This does not include my experience at a motel at the end, then with Camp Horizon a year later.

It began with living homeless in Birch Bay State Park for the last of the warmth of September and getting into a mobile home just as the cold winds started. From there we were able to attend Blaine School District (I went to Blaine High School, my siblings to Blaine elementary/middle schools).

Yes that is plastic bag like material (I want to say biscuine but that isn’t spelled right)

Funny enough, being homeless and living in the state park seemed normal to me. After all we had a contract out on our family, we hadn’t lived in any place stable since the year before (well six-eight months before). We had bolted out of Lake Stevens because people owed my dad a lot of money, and they couldn’t pay it, it was cheaper to get rid of him and us. Yes that is its own post at some point in the future.

The tent made it almost like a real home.

The park itself had all the amenities we needed after living in a car for those six-eight months. It had a place to set up outside, and we soon upgraded to a tent after getting there. There was a pay for shower (which by the way is a godsend when five people and a dog live in a car).

After living there for several weeks my parents found a mobile home. It was comfortable enough, I believe it was a two bedroom so all of us kids shared one room. From there I went to Blaine High school for a little over a semester. Blaine High School was interesting place, I went to it a couple of weeks ago after 29 years and found it to be a lot smaller and dumpier then I remember. I guess that is how life moves.

Definitely not what I remember.

During that time I met a girl named Morgan. She had white hair (not joking, full white hair that sometimes teens have), and was from Montana. We talked a lot and I had the biggest crush on her. Sadly, at the age of 15 I didn’t know how to talk to girls and I never approached her. I am fairly sure now that she liked me, she like to lay her head in my lap on the 35 minute bus ride home. At the time though, I was a stupid teen. By February her family had moved back to Montana and we were homeless again.

Lora Lane (was different in childhood)
Fall 1986 – The one photo of the trailer.

Sometime in the winter of 1987 we ended up homeless again and lived out of a motel in Blaine, WA for a short while before settling in Bellingham (don’t think we found one place, I probably lived in 5-6 places in Bellingham during high school, but I will post those as separate entries).

I am hoping as I skim through my parents stuff I will find more pictures. I don’t have any of the time we were in the trailer at the moment. I will add them to the gallery below as I find them though.

Link back to a listing of all homes I have lived in.