First created on Blogetary 1.0 around Nov. 5, 2015. This is a paltry re-creation of my father’s death announcement and a little bit about our memorial, which is why I have it dated Nov. 12, 2015.
On Mon., Oct. 26 my sister called in the middle of the premier of Super Girl. I answered with, “Do you know what’s on right now?!?!” She told me to sit down. Dad had died. I turned off the TV and spent the evening listening, talking, and not quite crying. Not yet.
After we hung up I knew my world had changed, but it hadn’t hit me yet.
A couple of days later, my stepmom Meeg asked me to write Dad’s obituary. The entire time I was writing it, I kept wanting to pick up the phone and ask Dad about things, verify things with him. I tried to make sure it was good, that I got everything correct, on my own. I learned afterward that I hadn’t, but we weren’t able to fix it. It is what it is, I guess.
A week and a half later, I was on my way to San Francisco for Dad’s memorial, where a rag-tag, motley crew of family members were gathering to remember him and comfort each other; figure out where to go from here.
There we were, all of us family in one way or another, all trying to help each other. All trying to cope with the loss somehow. My cousins Simon and Sarah had made the trek from England. My half-sister Elizabeth had come with her husband Will and son Jon from Nevada. My sister Heather and Meeg, Dad’s life companion, Gunilla (Meeg’s best friend) and Ed, basically family, with Monica their daughter and her daughters as well as other long time friends — we were all there.
We didn’t always know what to do with each other. Part of the time we were getting to know each other. Other times we were telling stories about Dad. Sarah and Simon would chime in with stories about Uncle Tony and some about Dad — stories they’d told us about themselves and each other. Then there was the shooting in France around the same time. And in the beginning we were wondering if we’d even have a memorial as Dad’s doctor had forgotten to sign the death certificate, so the morgue couldn’t cremate the body until someone tracked down said physician and got her sign it (and I think I remember there was more than one office she reported to).
Wed., Nov. 11 was a holiday in the rest of the U.S., and probably in other parts of the world like Canada and the U.K. But for us, it was Dad’s memorial day. We were taking his ashes (and all his various kitties’ ashes) out to Half Moon Bay, where we all gathered on a boat to toast him, remember him, and say farewell.
It was a perfect day. The sun was bright on the water and the wildlife — whales, seals, herons, ducks, gulls, etc. — gathered around us, as Dad would say, “like a god-damned Disney movie!” It felt like they were paying tribute to a man who loved animals, despite his often prickly exterior.
And then the send off lunch at the restaurant.
I remember holding myself tightly through it all, but realized I could relax. I was with people who knew me, even if they didn’t know me. I met Blake, who had known Dad since he’d first come to the U.S. I loved spending time with Monica and her daughters. John and Sally, Cheryl, Julie.
Sarah and Simon and Elizabeth had all already experienced the loss of a parent and knew what to expect. It was comforting to have them around while Meeg and Heather and I stumbled around trying to cope.
That night back at Dad’s place, we ate, we drank, we went through photos and tried to figure out what we were going to do with all Dad’s things, redistributed some of them to people that evening. But it wasn’t all logistics. There was magic. Simon found a guitar in a corner, picked it up and began to play it. We discovered old photographs of family we’d never seen. Heard stories we’d never heard about our families. It felt like Dad was there. I kept looking around for him. He loved large gatherings, being the pater familias, even though he didn’t like to admit to it.
One of the things we figured out was sending some of Dad’s ashes back to England to rest with his brother Tony and niece Kate.
I miss my dad — oh-so-much. But despite that, I was glad of the time I could spend with a few of the people from my tribe. I felt loved, like I belonged, and like each of us had a little bit of Dad in each of us.