The Fourth Memory
I warn everyone now, this is a highly personal story. I feel like I have to get it out of my head for my own sake and maybe just maybe it might help somebody else as well. Where to start? I guess at the beginning, hard to go wrong starting at the beginning.
My mother and father divorced/split up when I was really young. I don’t even know exactly how old, so let’s just stick with really young. Once that happened my father was just out of the picture. Gone, not around. Honestly, I never really missed him, not that I remember anyway. I had my uncles, aunt, grandmother and grandfather on my mothers side always around. I spent a lot of years with my grandparents.
As a result of all this, until this past Saturday I had exactly three memories of my father. The first memory is really vague. I just remember being outside and then getting a car with him and my mother. I can tell you exactly where the house was, that I remember. It was across the street from where my grandparents were staying that the time while taking care of my great grandmother. As for a time frame, all I can say is I had not started kindergarten yet.
The second memory is a bit clearer, though not a lot. I was probably in about the first grade and my father came to where we were living at the time. I guess he wanted to see me/us. I remember talking with him a bit, and being in the living room. I don’t remember thinking I missed him, but I was glad to see him.
The third memory is clear, I was probably 13 or maybe 14 at the time. I was travelling with my grand parents. We were coming from Kansas to Arkansas. I vaguely remember a discussion that we were going to stop on the way through to where my father was living at the time. It was a very brief visit. I was in the back of the truck, yes we used to let kids ride in the back of trucks and we somehow survived. Anyway, we pulled into what I remember basically as a trailer park(ish) neighborhood. We found their place and my father met us outside.
Here is the actual memory of him. I was in the back of the truck, as mentioned earlier. I stood up as a he walked out. He saw me and immediately said and I remember this very distinctly, ‘I thought I had boy not a girl.’ My hair was fairly long, down to my shoulders at least. That comment pretty much just pissed me off. I did not say a word to him, just stared back. It was a quick visit as we left shortly after what I am sure he thought was a joke. I didn’t even get out of the back of the truck.
All those memories are between 30 and 40 years old. Last year a brother, that I knew existed but nothing else found me. He found me through a post I had tried probably 10 years earlier on ancestory.com. I actually had my fathers first and middle name reversed. I still had the same email address, so Danny sent me a message. I never really check that account, it is basically the one I give out when I know there will be junk mail coming from a store or site. Probably 4 to 6 months went by until my lovely wife was deleting junk mail for me and she saw Danny’s message.
Apparently Danny had been looking for me for a long time already. He knew I existed too, but that was about it. I do remember seeing a picture of what I now know was Danny. This was around the time of my second memory of our father. For all I know my father brought it with him on that visit. After a few exchanged emails, I actually talked with Danny and his wife on the phone. It turned out my fathers mother still lived in the same place from 40 years ago, which is about two hours from here. My father was also in the area, not far away anyway.
From those phone calls, I found out that in addition to Danny I also have another brother Scott and a sister Jettie. I also learned that my father was taking care of, actually raising his grandson which our other brother Scott was the father. My understanding is he has had him basically since he was a baby, he is now around 4 or 5. It seems my father knew was not the best father and was trying to make up for it with his grandson. The four of us, have three different mothers, all of which he eventually divorced or left.
I talked with my mother and we eventually made the trip to granny’s. I arranged to meet my sister at that same time. One of father’s sister also came to meet us that day. That was the first time I met anyone from my father’s side of the family-first time that I remember anyway. We had a good visit.
I have talked with Danny and his wife a few times since then. We found each other on Facebook even. We all really wanted to get together sometime. In the meantime, my mother had actually stopped by there a few times on her way to visit her sister. During one of those visits, Keith my father, walked in. He had moved right next door to his mother. This was the first time they had met or talked in close to 40 years. After the initial shock wore off they set outside on the porch and talked for about three hours. Mom went back a few times since then and really got to know the grandson my father was raising. Really she was going for him and for granny, but she did talk and visit with my father as well.
I kept thinking of going back, especially once I found out he was living next door to granny. Scott, the other brother moved in there as well. I thought, this would a good time to go while Scott was there too and meet him at the same time. Well, I thought about it but never did. My lack of decision turned out to be my decision after all.
Last week on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, Danny called me in tears. Our father had a massive heart attack around 4:00AM. I was and am sad, but nothing compared to Danny, Scott, Jettie, and the rest of his family. Danny was already heading out from his home, in a different state, to get down here. At that point we knew nothing else. I called my mom and told her. Danny called me back when the funeral arrangements were made. The funeral was to be on Saturday and he was to be cremated.
I talked with my mom and we made plans to go. Everyone was meeting at granny’s house first, so we made plans to be there around noon. I at least got to meet Danny and Scott and a bunch of other family for the first time ever. This was not how I had ever planned it to happen, it is what happened though so I am trying to find the good. I took a picture of Danny from my phone and then later had my mom take a picture of Danny, Scott, and myself. Later outside the funeral home, my sister in law Melissa managed to get all us siblings together including a step sister.
We have finally made to the Fourth Memory. I went inside the room, expecting my father had already been cremated, but he had not. My Fourth Memory of him is now of him lying there at the funeral home. I am not telling this story for sympathy, but I really was not prepared for that sight. At some point all of us ended up standing in front of him. I stayed behind the others as they actually knew him and grew up mostly or at least some with him. That last sentence my sound bitter, but I am not. I never wished him anything but the best. I told him exactly that on Facebook several months ago.
As it turned out where the funeral home was located was literally three blocks from my sister’s house. I mean the sister with which I share a mother. The only sister I actually knew until a few months ago. My sister and I have hardly met and barely spoken even for the better part of a decade. I actually have a 13 year old niece that I had never met. I say had, because in the spirit of meeting new people I went to see her that day as well. I hope I learned my lesson(s) from all of these events.
One lesson is apparently I am a lousy sibling or relative in general. Other then my mother, I rarely talk with or see anybody else. That included her daughter, my sister as well. I need to work on that. Which is the reason, especially while we were so close, I went to meet my niece that I had never met. She is as tall as my sister now. I have only heard about her through mom, mostly. I have a nephew that I at least have met a time or two or three, but that has been a long time as well. To my family, I apologize. I meet with people I barely know regularly, but not my own family.
In conclusion, don’t be like me. I know it takes both sides to have a relationship, either side could reach out. Do not wait for the other person to reach out to yourself first. Be the one that starts the conversation, make a phone call, send in email or tweet or chat with them through Facebook even. I am now Facebook friends with two brothers and a sister and other relatives I didn’t know anything about. If you are the other person and someone reaches out to yourself, please reach back.