Memoir by RittaLynn Kloss © 2022
You’ve been gone fourteen years and it seems like it was only yesterday that I visited you in the hospital. Why didn’t you tell me you had checked yourself into hospice? Did you know you were going to die or was it just that you didn’t want to be at home alone any longer? What happened, after I left? Were you ill beyond what was told to me? You were doing so well. We even went out to lunch and you had your “regular”, apple pie and hot sauce. You had a thing for sweet and spicy, together. Yuck!
The nurses weren’t happy that I took responsibility, for you, when we left and went to the restaurant. I suppose I understand all that and yet I’m still angry with them for not respecting the fact that I was your medical power of attorney and should have been notified of the hospice care, among other things.
The day I left you and flew home, I knew something wasn’t right. I hardly slept that night and the next morning, I received a call from your nurse. She wasn’t making much sense as she was asking me permission to stop your medications. I asked her, didn’t you need them and she replied, we usually stop everything except what is necessary to keep the patient comfortable, at the end. Confused, I asked, at the end of what…my Dads hospital stay and she said she would have your doctor call me later. She must have realized that I was unaware or didn’t understand what was happening to you. The next day, Tuesday, the phone rang and I knew whatever your doctor was going to tell me was not good. I don’t remember everything he said but I know my heart was in my throat and I couldn’t breathe. I do remember giving permission to stop your medications and they said they’d be in touch.
Tuesday evening, your nurse called again and she asked me if I’d like to talk to you. I called the girls into my home office and asked them if they’d like to talk to you as well, but then the nurse interrupted me and said, he can’t respond but I know he’ll hear you. All my hopes of your recovery were squashed and it took everything I had not to fall apart. Thankfully the girls were old enough to understand my quick explanation and then they took turns talking to you. Watching your much loved granddaughters talk to you for the last time, was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life and losing you was at the top. After we all spoke to you, even my ex had to get in on this very precious moment and taint it forever, with his self righteous, see you on the other side, talk. I took the phone again and said my final goodbye. Daddy I asked you to fight, to not give up. I told you I wasn’t ready to lose you and then I said I love you and the nurse was back on the line and said you were smiling. My heart skipped a beat and I asked if you had woken up and she said no. The next day, April 23, 2008, your nurse called again and said you were gone. She said you’d had a peaceful night and all I wanted to do was scream! What part of this is peaceful?!? My heart broke in to a million pieces and from that day on, I threw myself in to my work and tried not to think about you being gone.
For many years, I was so very angry and confused about why you didn’t recover this last time you were in the hospital. What changed? It’s difficult not to think something sinister happened as you were definitely not on your death bed when I leftAll the plans were in place to transfer you to the VA hospital in Reno, which would have only been a 90 min drive for me and the girls.
I was on auto pilot and I know you understand, as you were truly a workaholic. You loved your work. You were, what I call, a multi-tradesman. Your many licenses, through trades schools and other training, is to be commended. You were an amazing provider and yet our home was extremely unbalanced.
On the one year anniversary, of your death, a bereavement counselor phoned me. She seemed nice enough and although I didn’t think or feel as though I were still struggling, I know I was. All was well until she unashamedly stated that I was not grieving properly. What?! In all my years of counseling couples and families, and helping them come to terms with the loss of a loved one, I had never even thought to suggest whether someone was grieving properly. I’m not sure how quickly I took offense to her lack of emotional care for my loss however I do remember telling her that she had no right to judge my grieving process and that she was not allowed to call again unless she was prepared for me to speak with her supervisor. She apologized albeit half heartedly, and then we ended the call. Clearly she had “counseled” others in this manner without reprimand and was comfortable in her lack of consolatory skills. A short time later, I received a card in the mail. The return address was familiar so I opened it. I can’t even tell you how shocked I was to discover this card was from the same bereavement counselor I had spoken with most recently. Unbelievable. Had I not asked her not to contact me again? I suppose she figured a card was safe as I had only restricted her to phoning me. Laughable at best. The card was yet another apology and I was still not prepared to deal with her inability to help so I tossed it and carried on.
I have regrets of not keeping you with me in Soledad. There was definitely a gap in our communication because your understanding was that you were only coming to stay with us until you were able to return home and care for yourself. The girls and I were so happy to have you with us. Your physical improvements were amazing, that first week. I still can’t believe that you weren’t in need of your cane and yet you took it with you, when you and the girls went out for a walk, more for my peace of mind. The girls reported back to me that you were walking faster than they could keep up and they smiled. They were happy that you were living with us and getting better.
Your appetite had returned and unfortunately, that meant you were feeling well enough to return to your home. You weren’t aware we had begun the process of clearing out your house. You had become a hoarder in your later years and I knew if I had asked you or told you we were going to clean up everything and then possibly sell your house, you would have lost it.
After you had been with us a week, you said you were ready to go home and no amount of talking with you was going to change your mind. You said it wasn’t that you didn’t want to be with us, but that you just wanted to go home and now, many years later, I understand as I’ve read and studied what it means to be a hoarder. I’m sorry Daddy. I wish I had known all the pains both emotionally and physically you were experiencing. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand you mourning the death of my mother, your ex wife. She died just four short months prior to your death. I don’t miss her and I’ve never shed a tear however as strange as it is, you loved her and missed her. Your relationship was truly one of the oddest and most dysfunctional marriages I have ever had the misfortune of knowing of and growing up with.
All of your siblings are gone now and there are no other family members left, who could answer my questions, but I still wonder how you two met and why you married. You definitely brought out the worst in each other and because of that, we were all thrust into a chaotic life of abuse that I still don’t fully understand.
The dysfunctional dynamic of our family began long before I was born. Mother had been married previously and had two little boys, when you two met. In 1963, she became pregnant with us; my twin sister and I and although she wasn’t aware she was carrying twins, she did make it known to you and other family members that she didn’t want a girl. She attempted a self abortion but failed. No one knew whether the doctor figured it all out prior to her going into labor but she gave my sister to the doctor. Why? Was it for payment for his services or had she planned to give me away and then discovered there were two of us, so she kept one. How fortunate for her that she didn’t have to explain that she was coming home without a baby. She had an emergency C-section and now I understand what the scar, on her lower abdomen was.
After the nurse presented us to you and said you had two beautiful daughters, what happened? Oh to be a fly on the wall of that waiting room!
I know now why you weren’t allowed in the delivery room with her. First, you weren’t married, something I discovered only after your death and secondly, she had a C-section. But what I can’t figure out is why you allowed her to get rid of my sister. I’ve watched you, growing up, and regardless of good or bad, you were relentless, a fixer, a doer. So why didn’t you fight for your other daughter. Your best friend was a superior court judge and also your attorney and someone I grew up knowing as Uncle Ed. Couldn’t he have helped? You told me that the doctor who delivered us adopted her. How could that adoption have been legal?
It couldn’t have been legal Dad. There are so many questions like why did mother not file and request my birth certificate until a full year later? If the adoption was legal, surely my birth certificate would have showed that I was one of two but it doesn’t.
Dear lord, perhaps I’ve got this all wrong. Did Uncle Ed help her with the whole process? There’s one thing I know for sure, there is no record of her giving birth to two babies that day and yet you met us, together and other family members, over the years, spoke of “the twins”. Did you know about my oldest brothers’ twin sister? She claimed she died at birth. But did she? So many unanswered questions.
Barstow theater, Mr. Bostick, the owner, would allow us kids to watch movies for free while you worked on the equipment that kept that place in business.
The day I saw my sister for the first time, I was 13. It was crazy, scary and wonderful at the same time. After the movie, I went to the bathroom. My friends were waiting for me in the lobby and as I stood looking in the mirror, a girl exited the stall behind me. We stood staring at each other, in the mirror. Not sure how long and then she ran out. We were identical Dad. Everything from our hair, to our green eyes. I followed her but not soon enough as my friends were chasing her down Main Street, and when I called after them, asking where they were going, they whipped around and Dee Dee said, we’re following you! When I caught up to them, we all laughed and then the questions…who was that? She looks just like you. Is she your sister, cousin or what? And although we’ve never come face to face again, it would be decades before I would see her again. Always in a passing vehicle or from afar but never close enough to speak with her. It’s a very confusing ordeal. Why have we not been allowed to meet? Perhaps her parents never told her she’s adopted. I hope they didn’t go to their graves without giving her that gift of knowledge. You told me the doctor was quite a bit older than you and you were 34 when we were born.
Over the many years since that first day, there have been many other sightings of my sister and we are identical as some of my friends have attempted to speak with her and she’s ignored them. I even gave my phone number to a store clerk, so that when she returned, perhaps she would take my number and want to call me. But no such luck. I guess not everyone is as curious or as nosey as me. I regret not telling you of all the many times she was spotted and in a lot of the places I was living. Strange. There was one time when I went in to a u-haul store to buy a box to hold our new puppy. Do you remember Chrissy? She was quite the dog indeed. Anyhow, I asked for a box strong enough to hold her and the guy offered me a TV box and then asked if I was shipping another TV. I laughed and said, again, that it was for my new puppy. He then said that he remembered me coming in earlier that week for the same type of box, but it was to send a TV to someone. The whole conversation gave me chills. He said she and I could be identical twins! Imagine that?!?
I’ve often wondered why Uncle Ed was so generous toward me and not the boys. When I was seven, he invited you and I out to his ranch and when we arrived, he said he had something in one of the barns, he thought I’d like. I heard a cat meowing and he said if I wanted him, he was mine. Of course you laughed and said no way Edward. And then he laughed and hoisted me up on top of a refrigerator and told me to call to him. His name was Snowman and he was a long haired Himalayan Persian who was not happy and needed a new home. It was dark up in the small attic space, above the fridge. I sat up there calling to him and finally this little ball of white fur emerged, with the biggest round golden eyes I had ever seen and he came right to me. Uncle Ed said, if he lets you hold him, he’s yours. So I picked him up and I inched my way to the edge and you lowered me and Snowman to the floor. He was so adorable and looked like a tiny fluffy white pillow. He was only 4 or 5 months old but smart as a whip. He already knew how to use his sandbox and he didn’t like the food Ed gave us so you drove to Hartwicks market and bought him some different food. He slept with me every night and then the headaches and itchy eyes started and didn’t completely stop until Snowman was gone, ten years later. I’m allergic to cats. Who knew?
Although I was only 17, Soon to be 18, I had already been planning to move out. I was still in high school but also working two jobs.
The day Snowman died, I was at school and Mark, the youngest of our brood was home alone. Dad I know you bought the rat poison but I don’t blame you for Snowman’s death. When I arrived home that day, I noticed your green ice chest wasn’t turned upside down which was what you did after you used it and washed it out. It was sitting on the front porch, but the lid was closed. That gut feeling, that I still possess, grabbed me and I opened the lid, only to find Snowman curled up inside, dead. I fell to my knees and cried. I knew he didn’t close himself up inside the chest and as I pulled him out, I saw a small box of rat poison. Oh Dad, the smell. It was horrible. I’d seen and smelled dead animals before, as you and Ed were hunters, but this, this was my friend, my sweet dear friend and he was gone. I knew someone did this to him. Someone deliberately killed him. And just as I found my way up off the ground, I saw Mark standing at the front door with that awful, snarky grin he always wore when he had done something wrong. No amount of screaming at him, asking what he did, was going to fix this. He had finally pushed me too far. I pushed past him and called your shop. You weren’t there so I left you a message. You didn’t arrive home until late that night and when I told you what had happened, your eyes moistened and then you asked me where he was. I said I hope he got hit by a truck and you stared at me for what seems like forever and said, I thought you said he was poisoned. I half laughed and cried and then said I thought you meant Mark. I didn’t know nor cared where he was but I had loved and cared about Snowman so I placed him inside a paper bag and placed him out on the back patio. I never saw Snowman again. We never discussed his death or what you did with him. Did you take him to Ed’s ranch and bury him? Thank you for your love and sensitivity in that situation. I will forever remember that precious gift.
Mark was a few years younger than me, and he was definitely a surprise baby as mother had had her tubes tied after my birth. He was always in trouble from an early age. At only five years old, he hit a neighbor with one of our shovels. His evil behavior continued and escalated to abusing and burying cats to molesting neighbor children. Eventually, he was placed in a mental hospital at age 12. I was 15 that summer and things heated up with mother as she had discovered my birth control pills under my mattress. As you know, I had always had a horrible time with my monthly cycle and my high school counselor actually suggested the pills to try and regulate my period. They didn’t work and I stopped taking them. Unfortunately, the day mother discovered them, she exploded. I arrived home from school and she was waiting for me. I heard her following me into my bedroom and just as I turned to say something her arm was rising in the air with a large leather belt. I can see the belt buckle coming toward me and I grabbed her wrist and held it tight. She was spewing her usual foul words with a few added for affect, and we struggled a bit more and while I still had ahold of her, I told her if she ever hit me again, I would kill her and bury her in the backyard. She yanked her arm free and backed away from me. She was still angry but she also had a look of fear in her eyes. As she turned to leave my bedroom, she was spitting and hissing more foul words at me and I said, say whatever you want, but you will never hit me again.
I learned those words from you Dad. I knew she feared you and I guess I figured if I repeated some of the threats you made, to her, that maybe she would back off and leave me alone. It worked. She never even attempted to hit me again, although she would threaten and still attacked me verbally almost every day.
As a child, and even into my teens, I never realized, I couldn’t have realized, just how damaging my words were and how truly damaged I was to repeat them. And although she was my abuser, and without fully knowing and understanding this, I, to, became part of the abuse toward her.
Daddy, all my life, especially while growing up, I always knew your love. I’m grateful I had you, my two older brothers and Grandma. Without you all, I probably would not have survived as mother was so very abusive that I was constantly aware of how much she hated me. How is it possible for a mother to hate her own daughter, her own flesh and blood? The first time she struck me, I was only 11 months young. So even if there is anything a child could do to cause a parent to behave so horribly, I was just a baby Dad. Were you home, the day she was attempting to potty train me? Or did you arrive just as she had struck me and I flew from the toilet into the adjacent wall? You were the one who collected me off the floor and held me as I cried. I’ve always wondered what started the constant fighting between the two of you.
I believe that whatever love, hate feelings you had for mother, began with our birth and grew over the years.
You had your own business and worked very hard, every day, sometimes late into the evening. And although you made enough for us to live on, mother chose to work. She was a waitress at a few different restaurants in town. Her usual shift was six to two every week day and sometimes weekends, which gave us all a bit of a break from her erratic behaviors.
One thought on “Dear Daddy”
Your letter to you daddy is touching. You keep my attention throughout this writing piece. Your description of your father’s life gives me a good description of your relationship with him. I can hear your heartfelt emotions. Thank you for sharing a very hard part of your life.
On Fri, Mar 31, 2023 at 9:15 PM Challenging: The Many Faces of Domestic