Tag Archives: death

Fatherless Daughter

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It’s been a year since my dad died of C. diff, and I feel as if I need to say something in recognition of that fact.

In most ways, my life hasn’t changed much without my dad. Before he died, we didn’t talk very often. I’d call him once a month or so, out of obligation, if he didn’t call me first. I tried not to bring up anything controversial during those conversations because I didn’t want to fight. I was weary of having conflict with him, although he didn’t seem to have any such aversions. He said whatever he wanted whenever he wanted with seemingly no thought of whether he might upset me.

Once we both had cellphones, I found texting with him was ok. Maybe he thought about his words before he tapped out the letters or maybe it was just more difficult for him to bait me in writing, but texting made checking in less likely to end in my anger or frustration. When he got his last smartphone, he somehow changed his settings so every text he sent to me was marked urgent. I laughed at his technological imcompotence, but I’d be glad to see one of those red exclaimation marks on a text from him now.

I miss my dad whenever something goes wrong with my van. My dad and I could discuss automotive issues without getting too personal. He enjoyed showing off knowledge I didn’t have, and I honestly appreciated his advice. Recently my van stalled and would’t start again. More than anything, I wanted to call my dad and ask for his opinion. It hasn’t fully sunk in that I’ll never be able to ask him for automotive advice again. When I do remember, recognition comes with a jolt of–if not quite sadness–a sense that something is missing from my life.

I think about him too when I get a good deal or have a frugal success. Dad will be so proud! I think when I realize I’ve tucked away screws I can use in place of the ones I’ve just lost in the dirt or get a flat repaired for free at a friendly tire shop. Again, I feel as if something is missing when I realize I’ll never be able to share my victories with my father.

Recently a friend of my sibling was watching the news and saw a report about extreme weather in the Gulf South. The friend wrote to my sibling, Dad ok? in reference to my father.

My sibling wrote, Hahah! He’s fine…sort of; he died last year.

The friend replied, I’m sorry…Was watching the news…and thinking of him.

I found the whole exchange hilarious, and it took me a long time to stop laughing. I chimed in, Hurricane ain’t gonna hurt Dad no more!

My sibling responded, I know, right?!!…it actually made me oddly happy and I laughed, that I don’t have to worry about the weather in Dad’s life anymore.

For me, it’s a relief to not have to worry about anything in Dad’s life anymore. I don’t have to worry about him being washed away by a hurricane. I don’t have to worry about him not having enough money to pay his bills. I don’t have to worry he will get sick and I’ll be the one expected to care for him. I don’t have to worry he’s going to say something to piss me off, and I don’t have to worry that he’s going to die because he’s already dead.

Despite the title of this post, I don’t actually think of myself as a fatherless daughter. Having a dead father is not some huge part of my identity, but every now and again, I do miss the best parts of my dad.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens

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I heard of Celia’s Rainbow Gardens after my first trip to Quartzsite, AZ for the 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Someone else who’d been at the RTR wrote about the gardens on her blog, and I was sorry I’d missed them. But I missed the gardens again both times I went through Quartzsite on my way to California, and I somehow managed to not make it out there when I was in town for the 2016 RTR. I vowed I would go to the gardens in 2017, and I did.

According to http://www.celiasrainbowgardens.com/,

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, [are] located in the Quartzsite Town Park [and] encompass 8 acres of the 40 acre park. The gardens were inspired by the dreams of Celia Winer, an 8-year old girl whose goal in life was to make the world a better place.

The Roadside America website (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/12493) says,

One of the “memorials to dead people” found in Celia’s Rainbow Gardens.

Celia was not yet nine years old when she died in 1995. The town, assisted by local RV’ers, built a garden of rocks in her memory that continues to grow with memorials to dead people.

As someone who likes cemeteries (read posts  I wrote about cemeteries here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/05/16/ajo-cemetery/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/10/30/888/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/20/hi-jollys-tomb/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/29/old-kernville-cemetery/), I enjoyed walking around and looking at the memorials in the gardens. Many snowbirds come to Quartzsite year after year. Many of these folks never know each other in their hometowns or even their home states. When a member of a Quartzsite snowbird community dies, it must be nice for the survivors to have a place in the town where the friendship thrived to pay their respects and remember their friends.

There are more than just “memorials to dead people” in the gardens, and it’s not just a “garden of rocks either.” It’s a botanical garden of sorts, with lots of different species of cacti, palm trees, and other plants. The aforementioned Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website says “[a]ll plants, trees, cacti etc. will eventually have identification markers…”

There’s an archway with bells at the entrance to the gardens. This area is called The Hero’s Bell Garden. An article called “Vets Remembered Inside the Garden” (http://www.celiasrainbowgardens.com/News/2006/5-17-06.asp) explains, the

archway [is] made of telephone poles with a cross beam on which two huge iron bells [are] suspended. These bells can be rung during special services.

On the Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website, there is a map with information describing many of the areas of the gardens. Near the front of the gardens is

Celia’s Oasis—A special area in memory of Celia and other children
who are remembered…It [is] surrounded by a low wall with the handprint bricks made by the children Celia went to school with.

There’s a palm tree plaza where

[t]he large palm [sic] in this semi-circle were donated by Main Event owners Howard and Marilyn Armstrong, and were planted by his crew.

There are benches in this area and throughout the park so visitors have places to sit and reflect, pray, or meditate.

There’s also an area with a

mining equipment display donated by BLM, showing some of the early equipment used in the mines in this area.

Of course, nothing in Quartzsite which might draw visitors from out of the area is complete without at least one reference to a camel, so there is a camel silhouette in this area too.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens offer folks the opportunity of some quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of Quartzsite commerce. However, even in January, the sun was strong and I got warm pretty quickly. The gardens are nice to visit, but as when you do anything in Quartzsite, even in the winter, bring a hat and some sunscreen and a bottle of water.

I took all of the photos in this post.

The Roadside America website gives the following directions to get to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens: [from] I-10 exit 19. Drive north on Riggles Ave., take the second left, then make the first right onto Main St./Plymouth Ave. [F]rom E. Main Street drive North on S. Plymouth Ave. The closest intersection to the park is E. Senter St & N. Plymouth Ave, and the driveway is just north of that. This garden is accessed from a dirt drive into the Town Park, and has a sign. The RC Flying Field is just past the access. 

 

Katrina Tree

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When my dad died, my sibling insisted I travel to Mississippi for his memorial service.

I was house sitting in Tracy, California when he passed on Monday afternoon. My dad’s wife scheduled the memorial service for the upcoming Friday evening. By Tuesday I’d bought a $600 round-trip airline ticket. By Thursday morning, I was flying out of Oakland, on my way down South.

My sibling and my sibling’s partner met me at the airport in New Orleans. They rented a car, and the partner drove us through the darkness surrounding Interstate 10, all the way to Ocean Springs. The three of us visited awkwardly with my father’s wife (who was holding up exceptionally well), then headed to Bay St. Louis where we would spend the night.

We stayed at the home of my sibling’s partner’s aunt and uncle. The aunt and uncle were out of town, but they graciously offered us the use of their empty home. It was dark when we pulled into the driveway, but my sibling managed to find the hidden spare key. It wasn’t long before we were passed out in the spare bedrooms, exhausted and probably still shocked at the unexpected death of the patriarch.

The next morning we were blessed by being able to sleep until we woke up naturally. My sibling cooked breakfast and we planned our day. I needed to stop at a thrift store before we saw my dad’s wife again so I could buy a new shirt. (I only had one shirt with me, the one I’d worn the night before. I thought my dad’s wife would only see me once before the memorial service, but it turned out she’d see me twice, and I knew she would notice if I had on the same shirt I’d been wearing the night before.) Before we went back to my dad’s house, my sibling wanted to show me the “Katrina Trees.”

My sibling and the partner and their son had visited my dad and his wife the previous summer. During the visit, my dad and his wife had taken them to see several “Katrina Trees.” The “Katrina Trees” were trees that had been killed by Hurrican Katrina in 2005 and later carved into large-scale sculptures. My sibling wanted me to see at least one of these trees that meant so much to my dad and his wife.

According to https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/hurricane-katrina-tree-sculptures/3683/, the

tree-sculptures are located all along scenic Highway 90. There are now approximately 50 sculptures throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast,

The website for the city of Biloxi (https://www.biloxi.ms.us/katrina-biloxi/sculptures/) says,

The trees were victims of the saltwater storm surge of Hurricane Katrina.

There was no plaque with the tree, no explanation or artist information. I did some internet research and determined this tree was carved by chainsaw artist Dayle Lewis of Indiana. My conclusion was confirmed by “Lewis 2012” carved into the bottom of the sculpture, just under the heron.

According to https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/hurricane-katrina-carved-angels/4266/, Lewis has carved angel sculptures out of six live oaks killed by Hurricane Katrina’s 40-foot saltwater surge. The trees can be found throughout Bay St. Louis.

  • Two…“Carved Angels” stand in the Cedar Rest Cemetery on Second Street[.]
  • One [is on] Beach Blvd – In front of Our Lady of the Gulf Church[.]
  • One [is] near Century Hall[.]
  • Two are located on the first block of Demontluzin Avenue[.] The “Demontluzin Avenue Angel” was used as a life raft by three Katrina survivors and their dog.

I read an article on the Florida Times-Union website (http://jacksonville.com/sports/outdoorsoutside/2014-08-30/story/angel-tree-mississippi-gulf-coast-saved-3-lives-during) which shows a photo of the tree I visited with the story of the three Katrina survivors and the dog, but I think they used the wrong image. While both trees were carved by Dayle Lewis, the tree where the three people and the dog spent the night during the hurricane was described in an article on the WGNO web page (http://wgno.com/2016/09/14/the-unique-guardian-angels-of-bay-st-louis/) as “probably the plainest of them all.” The article goes on to say,

The most elaborate of the four angel trees looks out to sea, just like the original one — it has several angels carved into it, along with some herons, ladybugs, turtles and pelicans. One of the angels has white eyes — of all the angels that adorn the four angel trees, it’s the only one with white eyes.

The tree I visited is clearly elaborate, faces the sea, features turtles, herons, and pelicans (sorry, but I don’t remember any ladybugs), and includes an angel with white eyes.

We didn’t stay at the tree very long. I took photos, and my sibling hugged it, then we headed back to my dad’s house to prepare for his memorial service. We didn’t stay long, but it did me good to see the tree. It did me good to see such a wonderful part of the life of my father, a life that I missed for so many years.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy

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Alejandro was a good guy who drank himself to death before he turned 40. He died last week, one more to go in 2016.

His dad is an alcoholic too. He started his son down the path by giving Alejandro beer while he was still in elementary school. From then on, Alejandro was his dad’s drinking buddy, even when the alcohol was adversely affecting the younger man’s health.

Confronting Alejandro’s drinking would have required confronting his own alcohol abuse, so his father insisted there was no problem. There were problems, all right. In the last couple of years, Alejandro often shit blood for weeks on end. And there was the time a drunken Alejandro pulled a gun on a guy who’d pissed him off. Anyone who could admit the truth knew alcohol was going to kill Alejandro one way or another.

In the last months of his life, as his health declined, his father and extended family refused to commit him to rehab. They’re a close knit clan, ready to fight each other as well as outsiders.I suppose they thought they could take care of their own.

Alejandro was a talented lapidarist who shaped and polished stones to sell to tourists and other vendors alike. His work was good, and jewelry makers valued the cabochons he produced.

When selling at the Bridge, Alejandro kept his rough stones in a pan of water so potential customers could see how they’d look after they were polished. He cracked me up one hot summer day, when, in response to a man asking why the rocks were in water, he said, absolutely serious, it keeps them wetter. He was a smartass, but he was good at telling jokes, knew how to keep a straight face, knew the proper rhythm to use to make the punchline pop.

He had two preteen daughters who loved him fiercely. He loved them too, even when he wasn’t getting along with their mother. The girls did their childish best to look after him. I can only imagine how those girls are going to miss him as they grow, the pain they’ll feel when he’s not around for the milestones in their lives.

Alejandro’s death is such a waste. He didn’t have to die. I know it’s more complicated than just stop drinking, but people manage to do it. I think Alejandro could have done it too. I think he could have gotten sober, under different circumstances. I think he could have lived to a ripe old age, seen his little girls grow up, shaped and polished a lot of stones, told a lot more jokes. It wasn’t too late until it was.

I wasn’t close to Alejandro, but he was part of my community. I cared about him. I worried about him. I was a friend to his young daughters and their mother too. I hated what was happening to him. I was sad when I found out he was gone from this world.

I hope for Alejandro–as I hope for everyone who dies–that he no longer knows pain, physical or mental. I hope he is at peace.

He will be missed.

 

Podcasts

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The first time I ever heard a podcast was when I moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. My traveling companion had loaded her MP3 player with music and words for our journey. At some point we listed to an episode of Stuff You Should Know about fluoride. (You can find that episode here: http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/is-fluoride-making-us-stupid.htm.)

Me Talk Pretty One Day
SIDENOTE: On that road trip, we also listened to David Sedaris read essays from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day. My favorite story in that book is “Jesus Shaves.” We had to stop playing it before it was over because my traveling companion was laughing so hard she was crying, making driving dangerous. (The image to the left is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it to shop, I will receive a commission from your purchases.)

If you don’t know, according to http://www.dictionary.com/browse/podcast?s=t, a podcast is

a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer.

The first podcast I really, really liked was RISK! Here’s what the RISK! webpage (http://risk-show.com/about-us/) has to say:

 RISK! is a live show and podcast “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public” hosted by Kevin Allison, of the legendary TV sketch comedy troupe The State. The award-winning live show happens monthly in New York and Los Angeles…The weekly podcast gets around a million downloads each month. Slate.com called it “jaw-dropping, hysterically funny, and just plain touching.”

If you want to hear people tell true stories about sex, drugs, feces, humiliation, and sketchy parenting (among other things) while using lots of curse words, RISK! is the podcast for you. It is not a lie, cliché, or hyperbole when I say I’ve laughed ’til I cried while listening to the stories of RISK!, and sometimes I’ve just cried.

To listen to RISK! for yourself, go here: http://risk-show.com/listen/.

I like to have a podcast on while I’m doing work with my hands, typically work that doesn’t take too much brain power. Washing dishes? Podcast. Making hemp bracelets and necklaces? Podcast. Creating hats from yarn? Podcast. Cooking a meal? Podcast. Folding clothes? Podcast. Gluing little bits of paper into a collage? Podcast.

I revisited Stuff You Should Know a few years ago while house sitting in a secluded location. The house had no television, and it was just me and the dogs out there. I missed human voices. Hearing the banter of the hosts of the podcast, Charles (Chuck) Bryant and Josh Clark, made me feel less alone.

You can find episodes of Stuff You Should Know here: http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts.

Stuff You Should Know led me to Stuff You Missed in History Class since both programs are produced by the same parent company, How Stuff Works. Find all the offerings of How Stuff Works here: http://www.howstuffworks.com/.

Stuff You Missed in History Class has gone through a series of hosts since its beginning. My favorite hosts of the program are the two current smart and sassy women, Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey. I enjoy their comfortable presentation style while feeling confident they did their homework before hitting the record button. The amount of reading and research these women do for each episode is amazing. Holly and Tracy give us more than just the history of rich white dudes. I appreciate their inclusion of episodes about feisty women and LGBTQ folks fighting for civil rights.

If you want to listen to episodes of Stuff You Missed in History Class, go here: http://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts.

While downloading podcasts from iTunes, I discovered Death, Sex & Money. The show’s website (http://www.wnyc.org/shows/deathsexmoney) calls Death, Sex & Money

[a] podcast hosted by Anna Sale about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.

I appreciate the way Anna Sale asks really personal questions while managing to express deep kindness and intense curiosity. She really knows how to get root of the matter without seeming pushy or mean. Of course, many of the episodes are heart-rending, covering topics from dead mothers and fathers (sad) to dead infants (super sad). The episodes focusing on sex and money tend to be a little more fun, although no less thought-provoking.

One of my favorite episodes of this show is an interview with Lucinda Williams (http://www.wnyc.org/story/lucinda-williams-death-sex-money). Lucinda starts off honest and raw and stays that way for nearly half an hour. Also fantastic is the five part series about New Orleans ten years after Hurricane Katrina. (You can start that New Orleans series here: http://www.wnyc.org/story/in-new-orleans-from-raising-hell-to-raising-kids.)

Check out everything Death, Sex & Money here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/deathsexmoney.

My newest favorite is Myths and Legends, featuring my podcast boyfriend, Jason Weiser. (Shhh! Jason doesn’t know he’s my podcast boyfriend. Neither does his wife.) Not only do I enjoy Jason’s calm, soothing voice and his snarky-funny comments (he holds nothing back when he talks about The Little Mermaid), but the stories from around the world are fun to listen to. Sometimes when I’m stressed out, I put the volume of my phone down low, start this program playing, and let Jason’s tranquil voice comfort me all night.

Here’s what Myths and Legends has to say for itself:

This is a weekly podcast telling legendary stories as closely to the originals as possible. Some are incredibly popular stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories that might be new to you, but are definitely worth a listen.

If you want to be soothed by Jason’s voice and entertained by the stories, go here: https://www.mythpodcast.com/.

That’s what I’m listening to these days, when I’m not listening to music. I hope these suggestion inspire my readers to listen to some new, educational podcasts. Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite podcast.

Me and My Uncles

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My dad was dead, and I was hurriedly planning a trip to the Deep South.

Do you think Uncle Duckie will be there? I asked my sibling.

I hadn’t even thought of him, was the reply. I don’t want to see him.

Neither did I.

However, when I spoke to my aunt, I found out Duckie had been by my father’s side in the days leading to his death. He’d been helping my dad’s wife with arrangements. Hell yes he was going to be there. We’d certainly see him.

My dad had three brothers.

Stewart, the oldest, was stillborn or died very soon after birth. He was never counted when we spoke of my dad’s siblings, however. Apparently a baby who died so soon was barely part of the family. I only wondered about this as an adult. Was this loss of her first child what made my grandmother so mean, or had that happened long before she was a grieving mother? Did her fear of losing another baby cause her to throw up walls around her heart when dealing with her other kids? Grandma has been dead for over a decade, and I’ll never know her truth.

The oldest child to grow up in my dad’s familty is Uncle Ronnie . He was a career military man. My father often characterized him as so smart, he’s stupid. He’s in his 80s now, and, I discovered at my dad’s memorial service, as deaf as a post.

Uncle Duckie is next in the line of children birthed by my paternal grandmother. He’s been a sleezeball and a racist and a pervert as long as I’ve known him. I grew up hearing stories of how my grandmother beat him. Well, she beat all her kids, but particularly Duckie. At least once, my grandfather had to intervene because he was afraid she was going to kill the boy, who was a toddler at the time. He says he still has the scars. I don’t doubt it.

There was one girl child in the family, born a couple of years before my father, who was the baby.

No one expects to lose their youngest sibling first. He cut in line, my aunt said.

The only material possession of my fathers I could contemplate wanting was a ring that had belonged to his father, the grandfather who died before I was born. One of us should have that ring, I wrote to my sibling as we made plans to travel to the homeland. My sibling thought the ring should go to my dad’s only grandchild, and I readily agreed. I didn’t need the ring, but I wanted it to stay with someone who had a tie to it, someone who’d appreciate it.

When my sibling and I arrived at my dad’s house the night before his memorial service, his wife had a handwritten when-I-die letter he’d composed several years ago. In the letter he said he wanted his grandchild to have the ring.

Duckie asked me for the ring, my dad’s wife told us, and I told him yes, but that was before I found this letter. She said she would tell Duckie my dad wanted the ring to go to the grandchild. It was my dad’s last will and testament, after all.

Later, when we got in the car, my sibling said, Can we talk for a minute about that motherfucker Duckie trying to get the ring?

I allowed how since our grandfather, the original owner of the ring, was Duckie’s dad too, I could understand he would want it. However, you could have let my dad be dead a week before he started asking for family heirlooms.

The next day, when we pulled up in the driveway of my dad’s house, Duckie was standing outside.

There he is, I said.

Time hasn’t been kind to Duckie. He looks like an old version of Gonzo from the Muppets. What am I talking about? Duckie is literally 80 years old. It would be weird if he didn’t look old, but his nose…Gonzo. I’m not kidding.

As my sibling would be the one to deliver the ring to the grandchild, I said before we got out of the car, Be sure you get the ring before we leave. I didn’t want Duckie weaseling it into his possession at some later date.

My dad’s wife broached the subject of the ring before my sibling or I could bring it up. She summoned us to the room with the closet housing my dad’s safe.

Did you tell Duckie he wasn’t getting the ring? I asked.

She said she had.

What did he say? I asked.

He didn’t say nothing, she said with her Tennessee twang. He wasn’t happy. I could tell by his face. But he didn’t say nothing.

Conflict averted. Thanks for putting it in writing, Dad.

I didn’t see Uncle Ronnie until he arrived at the church for the memorial service. He looked good. He looked younger than either my dad or Duckie. If I hadn’t known better, I would have guessed his age as early 60s, not his real 80+ years. However, as soon as he started talking embarrassingly loudly, I knew his hearing was gone.

He told my sibling, I don’t hear women’s voices.

Maybe he has high-frequency hearing loss, making it literally more difficult for him hear female speech (http://www.hearatlanta.com/inability-to-hear-womens-voices-is-a-symptom-of-high-frequency-hearing-loss/), but I had to wonder when he was ever in the habit of listening to what women had to say.

Although he was sitting in the pew behind me, I clearly heard Ronnie tell Duckie how he had basically raised my father. My grandmother wasn’t there to refute the statement.

Ronnie then told Duckie our ancestors were royalty and there’s a castle with our name on it back in the old country. It seems a bit strange to keep such information a secret for all these years, but I suppose Ronnie has his reasons. (I suspect one reason it that this royalty and castle idea is a figment of Ronnie’s imagination, as are the alien abductions he tried to tell us about later.)

Then Ronnie approached me.

You’re the oldest, he announced loudly enough for most everyone in the church to hear.

When your daddy changed his religion, he continued, he gave me his Bible. Would you like to have it?

Oh, no, you should keep it, I said brightly but quietly.

Good, he said loudly. We’ll exchange addresses and I’ll send it to you.

I guess he couldn’t hear my woman’s voice.

Before the night was over, Duckie had invited a married fundamentalist Christian woman from my dad’s church to sit in his lap. When someone asked him if his 54 year-old niece was his wife, he said, I wish! while sitting right next to his actual wife of five decades.

When one of the people from my dad’s church asked Ronnie something about his wife, he responded for all to hear, We’ve been married 57 years. We’ve tried everything!

Later he tried to give me a bed built by one of our ancestors soon after his arrival in the New World. Ronnie has not only the bed, but a list of everyone born in it. Apparently, I am the only one of my cousins qualified to own the bed because since I’ve never married, I still carry the family name. When Ronnie mentioned offering the bed to a museum, I enthusiastically endorsed that idea. I’m sure there is no room in my van for an ancestral bed.

And then it was done. My dad was dead, and his memorial service was over. I’d never have to see those men again, dead or alive.

 

 

 

 

 

Deaths of 2016

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Glenn Frey was the first, or at least the first I knew about. I heard about his January 18 death while I was at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. We listened to several songs by The Eagles one night around the campfire, a fitting memorial.

Reading a list of celebrity deaths, I see that before we lost Glenn Frey, we lost David Bowie and Allen Rickman, Pat Harrington, Jr., and a dozen other people I’d never heard of.

February took Vanity and Harper Lee.

In March it was Ken Howard, Gary Shandling, and Patty Duke.

Merle Haggard died on April 6, then on the 21st, we lost Prince. The death of Prince blindsided me. Who saw it coming? Not me. Prince’s death hit me hard.

People–famous and ordinary–kept dying throughout May, but the next famous death to get to me was Muhammad Ali in June. I learned about it late. I’d been on the mountain and missed the media blitz.

Gene Wilder slipped away in August.

Some people had died and I didn’t even know until I started looking at lists on the internet. Lois Duncan, one of my favorite writers when I was in middle school, died in June. The event hadn’t made the headlines. Pete Fountain passed in August. Buckwheat Zydeco died in September, but I didn’t get the news until October.

Early in October, while doing my job as a camp host, I found a dead man in a campground. It’s believed he committed suicide. On October 24, Pete Burns from the band Dead or Alive died from cardiac arrest, and on Halloween, I lost my dad. He was 70 years old.

My dad fell on the job in March. He was making a delivery and slipped on plastic on the floor. The plastic had apparently been there all day, but no one had bothered to sweep it up. My dad hurt his back. He was in so much pain, he took doctor-prescribed pain pills even though he hated the way they made his brain feel. His doctor suggested back surgery, and my dad agreed, but worker’s comp fought them for months. Finally the surgery was approved and scheduled for October 24.

Dad came through the back surgery ok. The doctor was pleased with how well he had done. But my dad was having problems with elimination and ended up back in the hospital.

I got word he had “c diff.” What in the hell is that? I wondered.

According to an article on Web MD,

…when something upsets the balance of [the] organisms in your gut, otherwise harmless bacteria can grow out of control and make you sick. One of the worst offenders is a bacterium called Clostridium difficile(C. difficile, or C. diff). As the bacteria overgrow they release toxins that attack the lining of the intestines, causing a condition called Clostridium difficilecolitis.

…it is most likely to affect patients in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Most have conditions that require long-term treatment with antibiotics, which kill off other intestinal bacteria that keep C. diff in check.

From what I understand, my dad was basically unable to make decisions at that point. His wife gave permission for surgery, and his colon was removed. Would Dad want to live without a colon? I wondered, but I know his wife understood his wishes better than I did.

Even with the removal of his colon, it was too late. His blood pressure kept dropping, and he didn’t make it.

I know we’ve all got to die. My dad knew it too. He was very clear on the concept throughout my life. But I’m infuriated his death was caused by an on-the-job-injury. I’m infuriated he died because no one could be bothered to sweep the floor. I’m infuriated that he spent his last months in the worst pain of his life because the worker’s comp bureaucracy is on the side of businesses and not on the side of workers.

My dad and I had a complicated relationship. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, my dad was a racist and misogynist. He’d mellowed out some in the last decade, but he knew how to press my buttons and enjoyed doing so. I coped by removing myself from the situation as much as possible. I hadn’t seen him in almost six years, but we did talk on the phone a couple of days before he died. I didn’t know it would be our last conversation.

My dad taught me to ride a bike. He worked a series of jobs he must have hated to provide for his family. We always had food on the table; as a child, I never knew what it was to be hungry. My dad was a self-taught plumber, mechanic, and carpenter. He told me once he’d never been able to hire anyone, so he’d had to learn to build and repair.

Over twenty years ago, my dad became a fundamentalist Christian. My sincere hope is that he’s gone up to Heaven to meet the God he believed in so strongly .

 

Syracuse.com has a long list of 2016 celebrity deaths. There’s also a list of 2016 celebrity deaths in music.