Have you ever in your life had a moment that was so pivotal that you remember every single detail? What you were wearing, where you were standing, who was around you, everything?
In the first week of November 2005, I was on the phone with my dad. We were talking about doing a Thanksgiving together the weekend after the actual Thanksgiving. He knew how hard I had always tried to coordinate the holidays since I got married.
My wife and I would stop by my mom’s for an hour or so, then my dad’s and lastly my in-laws. No family ever got as much time as they wanted, and we were running ragged. So, more times than not, I, rarely, enjoyed any of it. Wake up, get ready and start getting all the crap together for each stop. Ultimately, my in-laws would have preferred that my wife stop in earlier in the day to help with the prep work, but it didn’t always work out.
So, back to the original topic, my dad was living way the hell out in Lake Elizabeth and had a new recipe for deep-frying the turkey and wanted to show off his cooking. Long gone was the tying up and driving nails into the bird. I liked the idea of celebrating it a week later. We bullshitted a bit about music and said “Goodbye.”
A week after that phone call I walk in the door from work, my wife is in the kitchen, my son, Lucas, who is one year old at this point, is scooting around on the floor.
I walked towards the living room. The phone rings my wife answers looks pale and hands it to me.
I reluctantly take the phone. It’s my dad’s oldest daughter, my half-sister. She had been crying. She starts by saying that dad’s missing. I say no big deal; he takes off all the time. One morning he decided he wanted to see the Green Bay Packers play, so he drove to Oakland. He did these things.
She does this big gulp and says they found him this morning — at the bottom of a ravine, dead.
My legs give out, I fall on the couch. My son crawls over to me, pulls myself onto my lap. I’m trying to keep it together, and not cry or anything, I don’t want to scare my son.
Then in the typical character of my half-sisters, she goes down the list of people that she thinks I should call and tell. I am in zombie-mode so I nod and write down phone numbers.
Over the course of the next three weeks until my father’s memorial, my two half sisters take my dad’s ATM cards and clear out his bank accounts. Take his car (Chrysler 300) that is paid automatically through his checking account, and drive the shit out of it until it’s repossessed.
My brother starts wondering about what is happening with my father’s estate, so he calls our half-sister and they agree to meet at my dad’s place in Lake Elizabeth. They get there and our half-sister is acting weird. Everywhere my brother goes in the house, she goes somewhere else. The first thing he notices is that anything of value is gone, most electronics, my dad’s gun collection, movies, books, you name it.
Finally, after following her around a while, he opens a drawer and finds a deed to a house, not the one my dad lived in, but a house that my half-sister lives in.
Turns out my dad bought a house for my half-sister to live in. It might not seem like a big deal, but my brother and I, his first two kids, were asked to pay for half of our own Christmas gifts a few years earlier when he decided to give us black boxes for our cable system. A bit of a kick in the nuts.
We go to my father’s memorial. I give my eulogy. My half sisters pick a half a dozen stupid songs to play, saying dad would’ve liked them. One sticks out, Basket Case by Warren Zevon. They said that was my dad’s song to their mom. WTF does that have to do with this service?
Needless to say, our half-sister didn’t want us to know about this. She secured a lawyer very quickly. We go to court a few times, and my brother and I request that he becomes co-executor of my father’s estate, thinking that it might stop them from bleeding every once of what’s left of my dad’s belongings.
The judge assigns my brother as co-executor, but a few weeks later, my half-sister and the lawyer go to my dad’s house with a u-haul and put everything in storage. The place is gutted.
Once my dad’s insurance and pensions are cashed out, my brother and I receive, before taxes, a thousand bucks each, his two daughters receive somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen to twenty thousand each.
While my brother and I are trying to deal with the grief and now the confusion of being left out of his will of sorts. The coroner takes over six months to make a ruling. At the scene of the accident, there was another car and a motorcycle, when the officers on the scene were asked about the other car they became angry and said, “Who told you about another car?!” OK . . .
After the coroner finally ruled that it was death by accident, it was too late to file a wrongful death suit against the city. The coroner was, for the first five months, leading us to believe that is was suicide.
A week or two before my dad passed his beloved bulldog got cancer, and months before he told my brother if anything ever happened to his dog he’d go with her. We think he was joking.
The worst part of losing someone is not knowing what happened. Did he kill himself or was there an accident with another car and motorcycle? If the other vehicles were involved, why did the cops cover it up?
I’ll probably never get a straight, truthful answer. In the big scheme of things — I guess knowing won’t change shit.