(There is a picture that is supposed to go here, it is of the actual urn, on the window sill next to the spider webs and an old steam grate from an old Washington D.C apartment.)
Instead, since I forgot the picture when I left this morning, I will post a photo of the spider on the fence outside of my house. This damn thing is so big it looks like a crab!
2016 was an undeniably shitty year for me. How the year started until the summer, I can’t really talk about. Strictly because it is not just about me and I don’t feel that I have the right to publicly expose the whole of the situation.
I thought that things would get better during the summer, but they became worse and worse. I became somewhat depressed. I made my husband miserable. He was doing things that were upsetting me. I was doing things that were upsetting him. In the middle of all of this, my father started having problems. My mother had died two years earlier. After my mother died my father began to have what I called selective memory … others called it dementia. But really, he remembered most things. He just did not want to remember anything about my mother. They had been together for sixty five years, and now she was gone.
By this point he was in assisted living, and he was miserable. It was very sad. He totally did not want to be there. My kids stayed back in New Mexico while my husband and I were on this trip. It was seriously depressing seeing my dad in that place wanting to die. He may have been a bit happier if I brought the kids.
A year and a half prior to this, (around mid March of 2015), my kids were preparing to leave on a ski trip with their dad. I was on my way to get my hair cut and was stuck in ridiculous traffic. My ex-husband calls me and asks me if I could drive him to the emergency room because he was spitting up blood. I had to explain to him that I was stuck on an overpass in traffic and could not go anywhere. Sadly, he drove himself to the E.R.
The blood was a result of esophageal varices. He was then diagnosed with liver cancer and late stage cirrhosis. This was the result of untreated hepatitis c … which he knew that he had for MANY years, but never wanted to go through the treatment. There are many stories about what happened in that year and a half, but no one wants to hear or imagine details about the decline of a man’s life. This is not a Lifetime movie after all.
My current husband and I were married on July 30, 2015.
Now back to the summer of 2016.
So, there we are, on this depressing east coast trip to sit with my dad while he hated his situation. One of our last ever conversations went a little like this:
Dad: (While sitting in a chair staring at the wall.) “I can’t stand this anymore.”
Me: “Is there anything that would make it better?”
Dad: “All I can do is close my eyes and think of a different life.”
At one point I showed him his wedding picture. He recognized himself, and then pointed at my mother and said, “Who is that standing there with me.” I said, “That’s mom. Your wife. This is your wedding picture.” He just stared away somewhat blankly and said, “Oh, she must be gone now.”
I would cry every time we left.
This trip was in July, and we were going to be there for our first wedding anniversary. Since the trip was so sad, we decided that we were going to take that day. That one day, and go into New York City and try to have a good time and celebrate.
We woke up first thing in the morning on July 30th, 2016 and my phone rang. It was Paul on the other end, calling from Albuquerque. He said, “I don’t think that Gary is going to make it.” I was confused, as Gary never called me and told me that anything was wrong. Apparently he woke up spitting up blood and called Paul and asked him to drive him to the E.R. When Paul got there the door was locked and he wasn’t answering his phone. Paul called 911. The police had to kick in the back door to enter the apartment and let the paramedics in.
Many phone calls followed throughout this entire day. We eventually drove down to see my dad. While there, I received the phone call that Gary had died. I had to start making phone calls to friends and family. His daughter in California. His ex-wife. My own children. Yes, I had to call my teenage kids from 2000 miles away to tell them that their dad had died. His daughter had to fly to Albuquerque to take care of things. I still had to field phone calls all day. His daughter was in her early 20’s, but there were a lot of things that she did not know that were necessary. Like his social security number and whatnot.
My husband spent the entire day of our first anniversary watching me talk on the phone. Honestly, knowing my ex-husband, I think that he would have found it funny that we now would have to think of him every year on our anniversary.
A few days later we had to return to ABQ. Most of our time was spent having to work with his family to deal with the legal things as well as the emptying out of his apartment etc. The apartment complex had told us that we were not yet allowed in because they said that there was somewhat of a “mess” as a result of his death. We were dealing with this for days. They were never getting any cleaning people there. They did nothing. His daughter was having a hard time. She had to stay there and pay for a hotel room while waiting to be able to get into the apartment. She could not do anything without his identification, his phone, his legal documents. They were all in the apartment and she was getting frustrated.
Late one night, my husband and I decided that we were going to go over and get into the apartment. We did. He went upstairs to check out what the “mess” looked like so that I did not have to. There was blood in the bathroom and in the bathtub. Blood on the bedroom carpet which was where he paramedics had to try to revive him after pulling him from the bathroom. The paramedics left all of the medical waste strewn about the room. My husband cleaned up the entire mess, except for the blood in the carpet so that no one else had to see it.
After that, we grabbed a box and just started grabbing any paperwork etc that might be of use to his daughter. We grabbed his phone, his keys, his driver’s licence. Everything into the box, and then we went over to the hotel to meet with his daughter as well as his brother. They were very grateful that we took on those tasks, and asked if we could go back over there and that moment, and bring them, so that they could go through things and see all that was left. We all went, and we sat in the apartment talking quietly.
The next few days were a mess of calls and paperwork and moving truckloads of items out of the apartment. A few days later his family left town, and my husband and I dealt with the remains of his apartment. It took days and days. Honestly, we never really finished. We left a lot behind. Like my mother’s old kitchen table that he used in his kitchen.
His mother wanted there to be a service for him in Phoenix, AZ, where his family lived. His daughter worked with his family preparing all of this. Phoenix in the summer is brutal. He was cremated, and it was our job to drive the ashes out to the service. Between the time of the cremation and the drive out to the service, the ashes remained in their box in a cabinet in our kitchen.
There was some trickery involved here. He had had a number of places that he wanted his ashes scattered. His very Catholic mother would not want any of that. His daughter had the ashes divided one urn that would be buried at the service (we had to act as if all of his ashes were in that urn as to not upset his mother.) There were then several smaller urns that were to be brought to the various places he had wished for the ashes to be scattered. And then there was jewelry made that contained some of the ashes that were given to the three children as well as me. We were given one of the urns, a small silver urn with blue designs on it. We were to scatter those ashes in Flagstaff, AZ on our drive back to New Mexico. He wanted some of the ashes scattered there. His daughter had the remainder of the ashes. Hopefully they all went to his favorite places.
The morning of his service, everyone met in the hotel to have breakfast together before heading to the church. Just as I sat down to breakfast, my phone rang. It was my sister. I excused myself from the table and went to a quiet place to take the call. She was calling to tell me that my dad was just put on hospice. I can’t say that it was a total surprise, but it was like the hits just kept coming.
We then attended the service and the repast and tried to celebrate his life the best that we could. Later that night we were to all meet up at the hotel and have drinks and talk and put an end to all of our time together before returning home. The next morning we started the long drive back to New Mexico, with the urn and our mission to scatter the ashes in Flagstaff.
When we arrived in Flagstaff, we looked around to find a beautiful spot somewhere in nature. When we found what we thought was a good spot, we parked the car and hiked over to it. The kids did not want to be the ones to scatter the ashes, so I had to. We walked all through the woods looking for different spots to gradually spread the ashes and I sprayed them out from the urn. I had never actually seen human remains from cremation before, it kind of freaked me out that there were little bits of bone. I remembered that after my mother had died we all had an odd conversation in regard to what the crematorium did with the titanium rod that was inside my mother from a surgery years prior. We wondered if they collected such things and sold them, as titanium is rather valuable.
We were very quiet as we walked back to the car from the pine forest where we scattered the ashes. We all got into the car, and as we drove away through the woods making our way back to the highway my husband suddenly turned on this song:
It made us all start laughing and smiling. I think that Gary would have appreciated that.
When we returned to Albuquerque that urn made its way to the kitchen counter where it stayed throughout the next nine months until we moved to Santa Fe where it now rests on the window sill next to the spider webs and an old steam grate from the old Washington D.C apartment that my husband grew up in.
Just over three weeks later, on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, I received the phone call that my father died. A few days later, off again to another funeral. This one to be one of the saddest that I ever attended, but I will save that story for another time.