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 .