**Author’s Note** I started this almost 2 months ago, on my dad’s birthday. It was too much, so I walked away from it. About a month ago, my co-host wrote a beautiful piece (Check it out here!). As we talked about how well done it was and how proud her step-dad would have been of them all, I said, “I know how hard that was to write, I am sorry.” She said, “Yes, but we owe it to them and ourselves.” So true. And I knew then that I needed to finish this thought. It has still taken me several weeks to get back to it but here we are.
11 years ago today, I called my dad to wish him a happy 65th birthday. “Time is an asshole, Copper Sue.” He was irritated. Well, that was a pretty normal state of mind for dad. But more so on that day. His life insurance policy payout decreased on his 65th birthday and he was pissed to still be alive. He really would have been pissed if he had known he wouldn’t make it to 66. 8 months later, I sat alone in a hospital room with him as he took his last labored breaths. That morning, I woke up in Ohio to the phone ringing. That afternoon, I walked into a hospital in New Mexico. My mom said, “Roger, Copper Sue is here.” He opened his eyes and looked at me, “Oh.” That was the last time he woke up. That evening, I sent mom home to grab her meds, rest, and grab a bite to eat. I held his hand. I listened to the noises around me. I apologized for being such a teenage bitch. I told him how I didn’t know what to do without him. I told him I wasn’t ready but if he was than it was okay. And then he died. He was gone.
Two months after his 65th birthday, he had a scare and we all rushed out to him and mom. He recovered, much to the doctors amazement and we all dispersed. He said good-bye to everyone individually before they left. My sisters and brother all got closure that day with dad. I was an idiot and told him that he was being ridiculous. I would see him in a few months. I refused to hear his goodbye. He called me stubborn. Hello pot, have you met kettle?
Moose and I had flown out for Mother’s Day, the May before he died. He pushed himself that weekend. I could tell he was struggling but still able to make memories with mom and us. At the airport, he stayed in the car as we unloaded. I went to say good-bye to him. He grabbed my hand and pulled me into his window. “Goodbye Copper Sue”, he said with tears in his eyes and he kissed me on the cheek. It was only one of three times in my life that I can remember my dad showing me affection. “I will see you in a few months dad, no need for good byes. We are going to hang out without mom and eat all the good foods.” I think it hit me on the plane. That would be the last time we would see each other and he knew it. He knew it and I refused to see it. The cancer was officially back not even a month later but he knew it that day.
Roger wasn’t a perfect man. He was a self-proclaimed asshole, in fact he often said all Rogers are assholes. It’s been my experience that he was correct. He had many demons in his younger years but he had become a different person as he got older. He was solid ground for me. Always. I won’t get into a lot of that here because I just won’t. But I always knew he was there, making sure I was okay. He would listen to me. He would stand up for me. Give me honest advice, usually over ice cream. He wasn’t always on my side but he never bet against me. And I miss him. I get angry that he isn’t here. I get angry that without him as the cement, our family foundation has broken beyond repair. I get angry that I never got to say, “You are going to be a grandpa.”. I get angry that my children don’t know him, that they have been robbed of a person that would have relished that grandparent role. They don’t know what that is like and it pisses me off beyond belief.
They ask about him often and it pains me to the core but I answer honestly. I tell them stories. I tell them when we encounter something that would have made him happy. We listen to his beloved music. We laugh whenever we see flamingos. We talk about how he died and how his life choices took him away way before he was done with this life. We talk about how much he would have loved them and vice versa. I tell them all the time how much they are like him. I remember him so that they can know him.
I forget what he sounded like but when I talk to my brother, I can almost hear his voice. I don’t have many pictures of him. But if I close my eyes, I can see him leaning over the counter with his hands balled up and resting on his knuckles, watching mom cook (he loved her cooking). I have forgotten his handwriting, I tried to keep it in my head for as long as possible but it just isn’t there anymore. But I can still smell him, freshly showered with a splash of Brut. I can still see his black hair, peppered with greys as he aged, slicked off to the side and a little swirly in the back where it had started to thin quite a bit. I can still see him run his hand through the top, brushing it off his face while he was thinking. I still hear his constant humming, sometimes so loudly I think he may be right behind me.
My dad died on August 24th, 2006. It was hot as hell but it rained that night, it stormed like crazy. I watched it alone from their patio at 3 am, like I had done so many times before with him. I don’t think I ever felt so empty in my life as I did that night. That space has filled up with life since, sure. There are pockets here and there though, I believe they will always exist. The loss will be forever. I will always be sad. I will always be angry. I will always remember.