Wednesday, July 20, 2011

(43-358) My Story - Part 1

To quote Steve Martin in "The Jerk", "My story?  OK..."  I know Big V appreciated that reference, and hopefully it gave a smile to any other "Jerk" fans out there; and I'll give this disclaimer now, that's probably the only mildly amusing part of tonight's post.  358 days into my 43rd year and I realized that although I've mentioned numerous times that both my mom and dad passed away when they were 43, I never told you how.  Because their deaths and the circumstances surrounding their passings are such a big part of who I am and why, I feel that I can't let this year go by, with out telling you my story.  So settle in, and be prepared to sit a spell, because this just may be the bumpiest ride EVER.

I remember that when I was a kid, people used to tell me that they never knew a couple more in love than my mom and dad.  I suppose this is why many were so surprised by their separation - but not me.  When I was in sixth grade my dad had heart failure and ultimately it was determined that he needed to have open heart surgery.  One night, a few weeks before his operation, he came up to say goodnight to me and he told me that if he survived the surgery he was going to leave my mother.  Being 11 I had no idea what to do or say so I kept this information to myself.  He had the surgery on May 17, 1979 and did survive, but he did not move out until November when I was on a weekend, class trip to Washington D.C and my mom was one of the chaperones.  We came home from what had been a really great trip, only to find out that he didn't live with us anymore.

I've mentioned before that Richie Howell never seemed too interested in being a dad.  But once he'd moved out, he started paying more attention to my brother and I.  We went to Broadway shows, and restaurants and he even asked us if we wanted to come and live with him.  I was conflicted about where I wanted to live, because for once my father was paying positive attention to me and my mom was dating a man that I did not like and he was coming between us.  I felt that my mom chose this man over me one night when I asked her not to go out because I'd had a tooth pulled, but he convinced her to leave me.  I called my father upset (remember I was 12) and he came over; but when my mom got home and found him there, she was not too happy with me.  After my father had left, I told my mom that I didn't like this man and she slapped me across the face.  It was this altercation that made me decide to go and live with my dad and forever changed the course of my life.

Shortly after arriving at my father's I realized that he was using my brother and I so that he wouldn't have to pay money to my mother.  We lived in a two bedroom apartment.  My dad had bought himself a beautiful bedroom set and the furniture store had given him a loaner set till his was delivered.  As they never asked for the set back, he put it in the second bedroom that I had to share with my brother.  The bedroom sets were the only furniture in the apartment other than a card table and four folding chairs.  It wasn't that my dad couldn't afford to furnish the apartment, because believe me , he could.  It was just that he said he didn't want to buy furniture for the apartment when he intended to buy a house once their divorce was final, and then he would have to buy new furniture again, which he didn't want to do.  We lived this way for two years, although my brother would move back and forth between my mom and dad's a couple of times.

While I lived with my dad I didn't talk to my mom, because he had convinced me that she'd been saying terrible things about me.  We had no relationship to speak of and that is the biggest regret of my life.  I was a child, being badly influenced by her father, and it wasn't until he died that I learned the truth.

During my first year of high school, my father informed me that my mom had been diagnosed with Cancer.  He suggested that we might move back home with her, but ultimately he decided not too.  Then the summer before I went into tenth grade, my father went into the hospital to have a hernia operation and he had a heart attack as he was coming out of the anesthesia.  His health deteriorated throughout that year, but I have to be honest and tell you that his addiction to prescription drugs definitely contributed to his illness, AND I believe that he had a death wish.  For some reason he ALWAYS had it in his head that because his father passed away at the age of 43, he would too.

It was the summer of 1983, I was 15 years old, planning for my Sweet 16 party and in love for the first time.  My brother was living with us again, because me mother threatened to take out a PINS (Person In Need Of Supervision) petition on him, and  if my father didn't take him back he would have had to go into foster care.  It was only fair that my father take him, because upon my father's orders my brother had been trying to drive my mom crazy and that included verbal and physical abuse.

I was at my boyfriend's house and my brother called to ask me if we could take him for a haircut.  When I said "No", my father told him to take the bus.  He did, but when he got off, a car hit him and he was rushed to the hospital.  My father called me and told me what had happened and he insisted that we all go to the hospital to see my brother.  We did, and on the way home, it seemed like my father was trying to prepare me for his departure.  He was telling me things like, "when you're older this, " and stuff like that; but I didn't make anything of it.  As the air conditioning happened to be broken in our apartment, my father left me and my brother's girlfriend to sleep there, and he went across the street to sleep at his girlfriend's apartment. 

The next morning HE went to get a haircut, and when he came back he told me that he didn't think that he was going to make it to my Sweet 16, (which was less than one month away).  I asked if that was because he was going to have to go out of town, and he said "No, it's because I don't think I'll be alive."  I begged him to stop talking like that, and not in so many words, told him that I thought he was exaggerating; and he told me "You're a selfish, little bitch and you're going to be sorry."  He went back to his girlfriend's apartment and left me alone.

A couple of hours later his girlfriend called to tell me that my brother had been calling non-stop because he wanted to be picked up from the hospital.  She said that she was going to stop by my apartment to get my father's phone book in case they needed to call the doctor, because he hadn't been feeling well.  She asked him if he wanted to talk to me, and he said "No."  When she stopped by a few minutes later, I decided that I would go over to her apartment to check on him.  Barefooted I crossed the street and she shouted to me that her mom was going to her car to get something and I could just let myself into the apartment.  I went in and found my father slumped off the couch.  I called to him and tried to shake him, but he didn't move.  I ran outside and called to his girlfriend's mom, "Please come quick, something is wrong with my dad."  She came up, saw him and called 911.  When the paramedics arrived, I went to get my shoes, and then rode to the hospital with the police.  They asked me for some history, which I gave to the best of my knowledge.  When I arrived at the hospital, they had me sit in a private waiting room, and after some time, my brother, his girlfriend, my boyfriend and my dad's girlfriend showed up.  The doctor then came in and told us that my father had suffered cardiac arrest and died.  He said that he was dead when I found him and I was in shock.

My father's self fulfilling prophecy had come true and my life as I knew it was about to change dramatically.  Not only did I have to face my mom, who I hadn't seen or spoken to in two years; I now had no choice but to move back to live with the woman whom my father had turned into my enemy.  Interestingly enough, all of my father's plotting and scheming were for nothing as by the time he passed away, they were nowhere close to settling their divorce and he and my mom were still married.  The only thing that he succeeded in doing was robbing me of two years with my mother, for his own selfish reasons, which is why I refer to him most often as Richie Howell, instead of my dad.     

I know that this is a lot to absorb for one night; so please return tomorrow for part 2 of my story.
Till next time...


Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

Very touching story Paige...

I'm just a simple gal said...

Oh gosh, this is so touching...