Sunday, June 17, 2012

My First Father's Day as an Orphan

Parley E. Dudley
It's Father's Day here in the US.  I usually avoid writing obligatory "Mom,  I  Love You" or "Dad, I Love You" posts on holidays such as this.  This holiday is a little different.  I am acknowledging Father's Day on my blog not because I feel obligated to let my Dad know that I love him; but because I can't.  You see he died two months ago.  Unlike my mother's death, his was unexpected and I have not really been able to process it cognitively.

This is an event that I would have announced on my blog but I didn't know how to couch the conversation.  My father and I did not see eye to eye about politics and to some degree about religion.  He was a by your bootstraps libertarian minded republican and I am obviously a liberal socialist leaning democrat.  The result had been heated exchanges over the last 5 years.  It was only in the last couple of months that we were able to define boundaries that would allow us to converse about the things in life that mattered outside of politics and religion.  He was showing new interest in my children and acknowledging that he had been aloof and really knew little about them.  It was a small crack in the door but one I was eager to exploit.  I knew after my mother's death, that even with some warning, you are never ready for death.  There was so much left to say and so many other ways to serve that you will never another get a chance to offer.

My dad had back surgery in March, against the advice of his cardiologist and despite our pleadings.  The surgery didn't take and had to be redone.  He went back into the hospital for round two on April 12th.  The surgeon found that he had spongy bones and the surgery took longer than it normally would have.  He came through the surgery and it looked like he was going to be fine once he recovered.  Plans were made for a short stay in a rehab center.  I took the opportunity to see him once or twice a day at the hospital.  I was in the middle of opening a show at the U of U and so I would arrive before I went to school and then stop in again on my way home.  I would just sit there while he slept.  He knew I was busy and tired and he would tell me.  "You don't have to stay, I'll be alright."

On Monday morning, April 16th, after returning to his room from physical therapy, he had a heart attack and he died later that afternoon.  As the oldest son, who lives the closest, and at the request of my siblings, I immediately went to the business of managing his affairs.  He left nothing in place and so it has been a challenge.

For me this has all been surreal.  I miss him as much as I miss my mother but have not hardly cried at all over his demise.  There are many things that I am now that are a result of the man he was.  He was inventive and could solve any mechanical problem.  I use similar skills when I design and build theatrical sets.  Even though our ideology was opposite our conviction to what we believe to be true was equally passionate.  My dad was willing to fight when he thought the world was unjust and he was on the short end of the stick.  As estranged as our relationship was, I knew he loved me and was proud of the success I found.  There were many things I look up to him for but I enjoyed him more when I recognized him as my equal.  There is a leveling when you are responsible for your own success and you can no longer blame you failures on your parents.  That is the corner I believed we were turning, and in its usual fashion, life cut the journey short.  I do wish we could go back and say the things I now wish we had. At the end of the day, it is people that matter.  In our pursuit of success and ideology we sometimes forget that.  I know I did and I regret it.