Anniversary of Marriage & Death- a chapter from my life
(Married on the same day my dad dies…an explanation of the events.)
I was seventeen. A few short months and I was going to be eighteen. I couldn’t wait. I always said when I turned of age that I was out of there. I couldn’t wait to get out of that house and away from her.
I was an angry girl. I was pissed at her for not being the mom she should have been all the years before. I was pissed at her for not making things a little easier on my dad. I was angry with her for her illness that seemed to mess everything in our family up. I was angry with her for just being her. Most of all I was angry that my dad was dying.
My dad was battling cancer and he was losing. It was my senior year of high school. It was hard to get up everyday and attend school, but I did it for my dad. I also did it to get away from her. We were at each other’s throats everyday. The screaming matches that took place unsettled my dad’s peace. What peace he had, given the circumstances. There were times he couldn’t sleep over the screaming that took place between her and I. I swore when I turned eighteen I was moving out, and that is what I did.
February came and I finally reached eighteen. I took my clothes to the laundry mat to wash since the laundry at the house was piled sky high. She never wanted to do laundry. While at the laundry mat I thought over all the fights. I thought over all the things said over the recent times. Mostly I thought about my dad dying and leaving me there with her.
I was sitting on the faded cracked chair folding a blanket I had been given by my dad. I was thinking about it being time for me to leave that house. It wasn’t going to be a home when he was gone. This much I knew. I just didn’t know how to tell him.
I reached in my pile of change to grab out a quarter. I walked over to the pay phone that was attached to the wall by the back door. I put the quarter in and punched in the number. She answered and the words just flowed out, “I’m moving out. I’m not going to be coming home.” I didn’t give her time to reply I just hung up the phone. I still hear the ching sound the phone made as I hung up the receiver.
I was relieved not to be going home to her. I was tired of screaming. I was tired of watching my dad die on the couch. I wanted him to have some peace before he left the world. I figured he would get that if I left home. If I left the screaming would stop so he could rest.
I was young and thought I had found love in a guy. I thought he was everything. In hindsight I realize he was only an escape. It wasn’t love at all. We were to be married that July. It was his apartment I ran to after I called home to say I wouldn’t be returning.
Before I moved out, my dad bought dresses towards the end of his life for that wedding. I can still see the beautiful white gown he bought for me. I remember the proud look on my dads face when he shown it to me. We were hoping he would live long enough to walk me down the isle. We talked about how I wanted things done. I was caught up in the fairy tale and the want; the wants of wanting my dad there to walk me down the isle. I believe my dad was also caught up in it all.
I still remember the night I called home to talk to dad like yesterday. He asked me to come home. He said to me in a stern voice, “Rachel, come home where you belong.” And all I could say back to him was, “I can’t dad I’m sorry.” I wish I could have told him why. I wish I had explained why I left. I didn’t want to burden him with the problems I had with her. I just wanted him to die in peace. I wanted him to have no worries on his mind at his final breath. I kept my feelings inside and didn’t breathe a word of how I was feeling to him on the phone that night.
The next morning I got up and went over to see my dad. When I got there I saw a blanket lying on the floor in front on the couch. He had a pair of pajamas I had bought him. The blanket was there because he couldn’t walk to go to the bathroom any longer. It broke my heart and it still breaks my heart. I sat down beside him and asked him how he was feeling. His arm was on his knee with his head resting in his left hand. I remember his look. The peach fuzz he had on his head. I remember the tired looked in his eyes. I remember the rasping in his voice.
“Rachel, if you aren’t going to come home then you need to make it right with God. You can’t just live with the guy.”
I was silent. I was scared. I was unsure. I just kept my gaze on him for a few moments burning his image into my memory before I got up to leave. I didn’t know what to say. I was so mixed up inside. I wanted to come home to him because I loved him so much. I wanted to stay away because I knew what it would be like if I returned with her. I wanted to be there when he drew his last breath. I wanted to be so far away when he left so that I would ensure keeping my mind.
In the end I made the decision to marry the guy instead of going back home. He was a few weeks from being eighteen so we had to travel over state lines to get it done. The day before my dad passed away we left out in hopes to be gone one day and back before my dad died.
I think about that trip often. I remember the snow coming down in blizzard form on the highway that night as we drove. I remember screaming inside my head, “Stop the car! Turn around! I can’t do this!” Not a word left my mouth though. Everything on that trip was telling me to not do what I was about to do. I wouldn’t listen though and today I wish I would have.
We reached a town and realized we were lost and way off where we wanted to be. It was late by this time and we had to rent a room. When we got in the room I called home to see if dad was OK. I told them I’d be home tomorrow afternoon and things would be set right. It was a brief phone call.
Morning came and we started to get ready to head out. We had to travel further south in the state to be where we needed to be. The car was started and warming up. We realized the keys were locked inside. This was yet another sign I refused to listen to. I knew that if I didn’t marry him I would most likely have to go back home with her. I wasn’t about to have that. My resentment for her was so much that I’d take a chance on what I thought was love.
Eventually the car was unlocked and we headed out. We got to the courthouse as it was closing. The judge gave us a few moments and I explained the situation to him. I explained that my dad didn’t want me living with this guy. I explained we were planning to get married in July but my dad was dying of cancer. I told the judge I wanted him to know that I made things right before he left. He agreed to marry us and it was done.
When the service was over I asked the judge if I could use his phone to call home. My aunt R answered the phone and all I could get out was, “It is done, tell dad I made it right. Dad there….let me talk to him…” she handed the phone to my mom. She yelped out, “He’s gone Rachel….” I collapsed onto the floor sobbing like a little child. It was hard to breathe. I couldn’t talk. I was numb. The date was March 7th.
The ride back to Mansfield I was silent the whole time. Not a word fell out of my mouth. My face was flush and cheeks soaked with tears. We drove straight to my moms. I enter into the kitchen door and not one of my family members reached out to hug me that was there. It hurt like nothing before. Not only had I just lost my dad, and my best friend, but also I was shunned by who I thought would be my pillars, my family.
I remember my mom almost collapsing in my arms. In that kitchen for that brief moment I felt nothing but heartache and love for her. I held her in my arms so tight. I felt her pain and wished I could have wiped it all away. I loved her like a mother. I held her like a mom. We wept together like little children at our loss. In that sad but beautiful moment no one else existed in that kitchen but the two of us holding one another. We had forgotten all the harsh words. We had not thought about the bitterness that grew between us. We only knew that in that moment we needed each other like no other could.
A lot of family had no idea what had gone on behind closed doors as my dad laid on the couch dying. Most of the family had no idea the talks I had with my dad about moving out. Most family didn’t know half of what they thought they knew. That family treated me coldly after my dad passed. It hurt like hell and I still have not forgiven that completely. Someday I hope to and I try everyday. When I think of the funeral I remember the only one on my moms side of the family that hugged me in that church. Just one. Boy did I need those others to hug me. I needed them to tell me I could count on them. Boy did I really need those hugs.
So here I was married at eighteen and burying my best friend, my dad. Life was not going to get better any time soon either. The next chapter only details more heartache and mistakes that I can’t undo. I can only write about them in hopes to find some sort of peace with them all.
(This is a part of a memoir I am writing- just one chapter of many- I’ll post the following chapter to this soon. Please don’t be afraid to leave comments and feedback.)