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November 2017

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Sixty Years - November 8

Sixty years ago this evening, my father died. That was definitely one of the things that shaped my life. Fifteen years ago, I wrote about the night he died. I like that entry, and realize that most of you probably either haven't read it or have had time to forget it. In either case, here it is again, with a couple of small edits.

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I hate it when November 8 is on a Friday. I particularly hate getting to the traditional end of the workday when November 8 is on a Friday. When the sky is dusky and people are going home.

That was the time of day, on a Friday, November 8 a lot of years ago, when my father died.

He had come home from work early that afternoon, because he didn't feel well. He decided to rest before dinner, so he was doing just that. Since he wasn't trying to sleep, I was standing in the doorway of the bedroom talking to him, probably about what I had done that day. It was a week before my fourth birthday.

Mother was in the kitchen, working on dinner and talking with the television repairman, who had come to fix whatever was the matter with the set. It was dusk out, and the workday was ending.

As Daddy was resting, all of a sudden he rolled over and off the edge of the bed. He hit the floor. I didn't know what was happening, and had no name for it. But it was a heart attack, and he was dying.

It's funny what you block about moments like that. I don't remember running down the hall to get to Mother. She told me, much later in my life, that I was screaming for her to get my daddy off the floor. I don't remember the television repairman being there, either, but I do remember mother calling the doctor's office. And calling for an ambulance. This was before there was any such thing as a community rescue squad; all ambulance service was run by the funeral homes in our county.

It took a long time to get any help. (No, that's not my perception; it happened that the doctor and the ambulance were unavailable at the time the calls came in, and were delayed in responding. The doctor did tell us later that he didn't think there was anything that he could have done had he arrived earlier --- remember, this was a long time ago and medicine has progressed quite a bit in the ensuing years.) And it was too late. Daddy was dead when the doctor and ambulance arrived. There was a trip to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

In the meantime, one of my aunts was driving by on her way home from work, and saw the commotion at our house. She stopped and took me to her home, a couple of blocks away.

I remember coming home later that evening, about in time to go to bed. Mother had chosen not to tell me that Daddy was dead that night, but to wait until we had had some sleep and I could absorb some of what she was saying. It was, of course, my first experience with death, so there was a lot I didn't understand.

She also chose, wisely, I think, to have me stay with relatives instead of attending the funeral. I asked her about it some years later, when I was around twelve. She said she thought there were parts of it that would frighten me, and I'm sure she was right. But in that strange way of the mind, not too many days later I dreamed that Daddy had come back to guide me through his funeral. And I dreamed the whole service. It gave me a lot of peace.

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Sixty years is a long time. And yet, it's just moments ago.

Text © copyright 2000-2017 Becky