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.

Greeting Cards

Here I am up at 1:30am thinking about Greeting Cards.

Lately I have been working on a project to scan all of our hardcopy photos and then getting storage containers to hold the photos themselves. The old photo albums are falling apart and are destroying the photos. This was spurred on by receiving my parents photos after their passing last year.

It was tough to scan old family photos, I won’t deny that at all. A lot of emotional baggage came up, especially since I haven’t dealt with their passing. Wolsey says it has set me off into a depression. While I want to say that isn’t true, I am not looking from the outside so maybe it is.

I had finished the scanning of hardcopy photos (I still have hundreds of negatives, but those I have in one storage book so they can be done as I go) so I switched to combining and setting up storage for greeting cards.

Greeting cards are always a weird thing for me. They have always held a weird place in my family, compared to other families I have known. No matter what was happening each event,  my parents would get us a card with a handwritten message inside them for each birthday, anniversary, promotion, holiday or end of quarter (and a dozen other special holidays). No matter how poor they were at the time. There would always be in quotation marks the last two digits of the year as well.

Wolsey and I would always smile, thank them and get home joking about the cards. No one else I know of received cards on this level (a lot of times with flowers) for even random small events in our life. I have some cards from other family members, but our receiving them varied on if they were mad at us, if we had drifted away in talking, whereas my parents would have one every event, no matter what.

Yesterday I got my greeting cards storage box and went through the cards. I was surprised it was the hardest thing I have done. It was harder then going through the photos, harder then going through the remnants of their personal belongings in storage, harder then anything except maybe the letters my dad would sometimes write.

It was a quick process, and all the more sadder because it was quick. I had over the years kept most of the stuff they gave us, but we have moved so often, downsized and in general would lose some of them. Now I can see the holes in the different holidays because the cards are missing and it makes me sad. There were important events to Wolsey and I, that I realized the only people that commented/congratulated/consoled us were my parents. I think that is probably the worst part of it, knowing those will be the last cards I will receive from them.

I am glad though that something as small and eccentric like that was a habit they had. It reminds me how much they did care about the little things that happened with us. In that light, I am very fortunate to have the cards, and to have parents that cared about me and my husband so much.

 

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.

Happy Anniversary, we miss you.

I woke up a little confused this morning, dreams of my mom and dad. Then when I sat down I realized she had passed away a year ago today, on their 46th wedding anniversary (today would be their 47th anniversary). Of course it happened that way, my parents loved each other too much to go long without seeing one another. My mom liked holidays so this seems perfectly in her style to pick one of her favorite holidays to pass.

She didn’t do well after my dad passed away in February of 2016. She was lonely a lot, and I couldn’t be with her daily (but at least weekly I was). I did call her multiple times a day, every day and she seemed buoyed by it. Then my brother stayed with her. She tried hard to keep things going, but in the end her body couldn’t hold up to her grief.

Although she was incredibly brave, and remarkably at peace as things failed her. She didn’t want to be here anymore. As her heart was giving out, we talked with her and she went into hospice. By this time we were driving up daily to see her. So many things happened I will talk about later. I remember her asking me for the days in hospice what day it was. She wanted to make it so badly to their anniversary. It was important to her.

I kept telling her it wasn’t “today” yet. Eventually that day did come, no matter how much I wished it wouldn’t. Their anniversary arrived quietly on a hot summer day, and as we went up to see her in the hospice house I knew it would be for the last time.

We arrived there, met with family, drama and a desire that I could whisk her away somewhere she could get true peace. We sat with her for hours, she was slowly fading, but would occasionally stir and say something garbled.

I was holding her hand most of the day, she was less responsive then the previous days. I leaned over and whispered to her that it was ok, today was her anniversary she had been waiting for and it was ok to go. She was mostly unconscious but she still squeezed my hand.

We stayed a few more hours, and I thought I had been wrong. Not more than 30 minutes later, while we were still driving through Mount Vernon on our way home, I got a call from my sister. She had passed away. I was numb for the rest of the car ride, but that will be talked about in a future post (along with everything else that happened around her passing).

I love you mom. I still miss you and I hope you are in a better place. Even with all the issues our family had, I am grateful you were my mother. I know you loved all of us deeply.

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Mom in  May 1970
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Mom in May 2016, still holding it together for the family after my father passed.

It is funny, I still remember you more towards the way you looked in the 1970s.

Oh, and my mom was a stickler about holidays, ALL OF THE HOLIDAYS, so I know she expects me to wish her and my dad a happy anniversary, 47 years ago today. So HAPPY 47th ANNIVERSARY MOM AND DAD!

From Parents Photo Album
Married July 25th, 1970. John and Mary Bradley.

I love you, just wanted you to know that we love you, and we miss you and dad.

Holiday Calls

Warning: Stream of consciousness writing.

When I was younger, the 4th of July was a lot of fun. As a kid, my dad would take the family outside of the apartment, sometimes the parking lot, sometimes the park across the fence, and light off fireworks. It was a fantastic time for us kids.

When I got older, my parents drank more, but we still usually enjoyed the 4th. As I became a teenager though I began to like it less. Eventually I moved out and ended up with Wolsey. We did the firework thing, bottle rocket wars, etc when we got together, but as the years progressed that became less fun. Nowadays we don’t do much for the holiday, except get home early enough to comfort our animals as others light fireworks.

The only thing that was sure nowadays was a call from my mom wishing me happy Fourth of July. She hadn’t missed any holiday in 25 years. For her, every holiday was sacred and worthy of a call to me. She even did this on Arbor Day… who the hell even knows what Arbor Day is?

Back to yesterday, it went really well, we hung out Torie, went to lunch, came home in time to avoid the crowds. But something had been bothering me all day, something that I would almost catch out of the corner of my memory. I couldn’t come up with what it was at the time until later in the afternoon.

It dawned on me that this was the first 4th of July that my mom hadn’t called to wish me a happy holiday. I realized that had been bothering me since about noon. While this is probably just a sad memory, I suspect part of what is bothering me is that it is the anniversary of her passing will be in three weeks.

I guess this is just a long-winded way to say I miss those stupid holiday calls. I am not looking forward to New Year’s Eve.

Dreams: A Dark Night and a Patio Door

I had a dream a few days ago, there were a lot of specifics that have faded away, but the root part of the dream still haunts me.

I was in some sort of apartment that was second floor or higher. I was standing in the living room and somebody was talking to me as I was staring out into the dark night. My eyes rested on a  building that was almost kitty corner to me. Instead of it facing towards me though, it was facing 90 degrees, which made the two buildings form an L shape, with a sort of courtyard in the middle.

This was late at night, I could see flashes of light in the distance, and I could see fairly well into an apartment in that building, one story above my level. As if it was the third level of an almost identical building compared to my second level. Both the other apartment, and mine had patio doors that led to nowhere. These were glass like doors that weren’t open at the time, but seemed to open out to a fall of two or three stories.

While I was watching that other door, I started putting on some sort of coat. I think now that it was some sort of rain poncho/rain coat. As I was doing that I saw my dad in that window. He was in his late 40s/early 50s with longer hair. He turned and looked at me from that patio door when all of sudden his face had this look of terror on it as he watched me and he started slamming on the patio door, almost knocking it out. I could see him screaming in horror, rendering himself hoarse.

I was panicking, worrying that he was going to fall out the window and get hurt or die. I could hear muffled screams as his fists slammed harder and harder into the glass (never breaking it). I was trying to figure out a way to get over behind his building and get up to him (because for some reason that was what my mind thought, the only way to get there is to run behind the building). That was when I realized he was trying to warn me, he was looking at something behind me, screaming at me about something. 

The moment the realization that he wasn’t scared for himself, but for me and he was looking behind me was when I woke up.

I got up Saturday morning around 2am, didn’t go back to bed and this dream has been bothering me ever since. I hope writing it out helps like my other dreams and it fades.

 

Anxiety about nothing

The last few weeks I have been scanning my parents photo albums. After my dad passed I started the project, and did several of them before my mom passed five months later. At that point I grabbed all of the photo albums I could out of their house so I could scan the remaining photos.

Fast forward almost a year and I spent the last two weeks scanning the remaining 7 albums (for a total of 13 albums plus about 220 free floating photos). The ended up with me having about 2,600 photos. With many duplicates in various conditions. Because there was so many albums I didn’t want to sort first, so I just scanned everything.

Yep, I am that old.

Currently I am now trying to determine what to do with those photos. The photos were incredibly important to my family growing up. We were homeless (as in living in a car, in a tent and even under plastic over a picnic table) for years and yet we somehow kept the photo albums (with few losses). We lost everything else we ever owned (other than maybe a couple of Christmas decorations that were important…) ya not sure why that now but it seemed logical growing up.

Yes, even here we had 5 or 6 albums that went everywhere with us.

I know I will keep a copy of all the photos put away. I will send a copy of them to each of my siblings and the one niece who wants them. But I am not sure what to do with my non-backup copy, the one that I will use.

I realize the first idea is why not keep them? After all, they all easily fit on my phone with everything else, let alone the computer. However there are a lot of photos that have no meaning to me in themselves. They are random landscapes I don’t remember (probably taken my dad in the last forty years randomly), people I never met, and places I don’t recognize. Meaning they don’t really have a place with me.

I am really trying to keep my belongings minimal, to what is important. I know logically the 2,600 photos from there, plus an additional 3,000 photos I have on my computer (and stacks and stacks of photos the hubby and I took the first 15 years of marriage that we never put into computer (before digital cameras were a thing and always put off scanning them). Besides, I don’t know or recognize much of those photos.

Yet why do I feel like I am committing some sort of atrocity by not keeping copies in my computer/phone (but they are in the backup)? It has bothered me a lot the last few days. I also realize I am probably bothered most by going through the photos and seeing my mom and dad and working through the grief still of their loss. It probably wasn’t something I was prepared for yet, but I want to make sure everything is scanned so an accident doesn’t happen and wipe out those photos.

So here I am, just sharing a pointless anxiety that has caused me to go without sleep. Even now writing about it I feel calmer, and more and more its ok to not keep pictures of random people I don’t know and have no relation to me.