My father died a few days ago and I’m a little more swear-y than usual. Sorry.
Over the past few days, I’ve received a lot of messages, phone calls and words of comfort. I’m deeply grateful and I will respond to all of them so forgive this blanket response to your questions and queries. My patience is very thin and I have this deep anger thing going on that I haven’t quite worked out. I’m also bursting into really painful bouts of tearfulness that T-bones me like a juggernaut.
And today I realised I just don’t know who I am anymore. Just trust me on this one: I’m not a lot of fun at the moment.
I’ve known for some time that I was going to lose my dad soon. I’ve had transiting bloody Pluto opposite my Sun for what seems like years (and the fun will continue for the next few years too). As dad and I have a Sun-Moon conjunction in Cancer (my Sun, his Moon), it seemed inevitable that some sort of identity transformation would be taking place.
I thought I had this death thing under control. As a meningitis survivor, I’ve been more or less ready for my own demise my whole life. I’ve listened to “The Meningitis Story” for 54 years and I am totally immune to freaking out over my own death. I even took this great college course called “Death, Dying and Bereavement” which I figured would take the sting out of death. Only last week, I updated my last will and testament. I have no fear of death.
And you see, that’s just when Pluto comes along and knocks your guts all over the place.
Mom called last week with the news that my father had collapsed. We’ve been here before with my father and I had spent several sleepless nights by the phone waiting to find out if I should book that flight back home to Detroit. But Dad pulled through back then and I really thought this was just another false alarm. According to Mom, the doctors told her that my Dad had a heart attack. However, it wasn’t a heart attack at all and it looked like Dad was going to give those quacks a run for their money again.
I had to rely on my sister to help me put the facts together. Mom wasn’t making sense and neither of us could tell how much she had misheard or misunderstood. Then I realised that if worse came to worse, I wouldn’t be able to enter the US from the UK in the middle of a fucking Pandemic. Suddenly, I was very very frightened.
It took a few days but the doctors were able to diagnose that Dad’s kidneys were failing. He needed dialysis and now the doctors were talking about what kind of home care my father would need. In the later stages of dementia (fuck you Alzheimer’s), Dad was getting to be too much for Mom to handle. But hey, they’re talking “home care” so Dad’s coming home.
Except he wasn’t.
The dialysis didn’t work but I still didn’t believe that dad wouldn’t be coming home. Even when my sister filmed his poor, laboured face for my dumbass self stranded in a foreign country, I just didn’t get it that my big, strong Daddy wasn’t going to be leaving that hospital room. He responded by opening his eyes and looking at the camera when I told him I loved him. He moved his hands and feet as if to let me know he heard me. Dad wasn’t even Cheyne-Stoking so I refused to say goodbye. My dumbass self thought I’d have another opportunity.
Dad died later that evening (early in the morning for the UK).
In the aftermath, I thought I was handling things pretty well. I managed to get an article sent off then did a lecture in the days after my dad passed away. My wonderful secretary helped me reschedule clients so I could meet my obligations without more stress than necessary. I should have realised I was just in shock and the worst was yet to come.
My sister used her phone to film my dad’s funeral. The sight of my dad in that fucking box while we sang his favourite hymns has just about sent me over the fucking edge.
I’ve become a fatherless daughter. WTF?
Mom reminded me that I was always Dad’s little buddy. I made him a daddy. I used to follow him everywhere. I looked like him and I certainly got his work ethic as well as his deep sense of responsibility that it is the worse sort of sin to let someone down. I’ve never met a man who compared to my father, a statement that my sister and I have both declared on more than one occasion. Dad ruined other men for us simply by putting his head down and working through the chronic pain he suffered since he broke his back at work when I was a baby. When I look back on all my relationships, I realise I judged my men based on my father’s credentials.
As his Moon was in its rulership in Cancer, my Dad of course was a sensitive man but he also had a stellium in Taurus and by God, he could be stubborn. He liked his meat and potatoes, especially Polish sausage and boiled potatoes and he liked to cook. Dad was a momma’s boy and the more I learned about astrology, the more I realised Dad was the absolute archetype of Taurus and Cancer. I often had to loan my dad to friends and family because he was that gentle, steady rock that could bring so much comfort to those who were hurting. I loved it that quite a few astrologers met Dad at SOTA a few years ago and that everyone who met him remembered him and wanted to reach out to offer their sympathy when he passed.
I do have my very favourite memories of my father: him teaching me how to throw a baseball overarm and how to throw a punch. Both of these skills served me well. I have, on occasion, used my pitching skills to impress an unruly classroom with a perfect curveball on a warm spring’s day during opening season. And my punching skills? Based on that big old dent I left on my living room wall last night in a furious display of temper as I thought about my father being cremated, I’d say I still got it. I just wish I had used my left hand so I could type better this morning.
Dad came from a blue collar family of farmers who travelled from the Rhinelands just after the American Civil War. He never finished high school so it was a weird childhood to have out-educated my father by the age of 14. But Dad was smart in lots of different kinds of ways. Like he could look at any car and tell you the year, which company designed it and where. I thought he was making it up. What the hell do I know about cars though? His Mars in Gemini was on my Venus and he encouraged my studies and was proud that I went to university even though he never had that privilige. When I went to Dusseldorf to visit his homeland, I was immediately struck by how similar my Dad was to those savvy and intelligent people. And of course, I recognised the types of food my dad favoured.
Dad was a long distance truck driver and one of my proudest moments was riding shotgun with him in his big old Kenworth. We drove from the small town we lived in all the way to Chicago and then back again, listening to and singing “trucker songs”. I waved to the drivers and passengers of every single car as if I were the motherfucking Queen of England. I must have been about 9 or 10. I thought a lot about my dad and our trips whenever I visited the US on one of my tours.
When my family moved back to Michigan, Dad did this ridiculous paper round that meant he had to get up at 3am. These are the kinds of things he did to make sure the family got fed and clothed. I loved those early mornings with my dad riding through the night until the sun started to rise. By this time, I had a huge collection of jokes and my dad would indulge me by laughing at every single one.
And don’t think we didn’t have father-daughter arguments when I was a teenager. I had a lot of difficulty accepting that I was not a son, the heir to the family name and fortune. I hated my body and I struggled being mixed race and not looking a bit more like what people think an Ojibwa should look like. It was in India a few years ago that I was told that it was a fortunate woman who had her father’s face. I really liked that. And it’s true.
My dad had a deadly sense of intuition. He could get a measure of someone’s worth just by looking at them. I wished I had listened to him more often and saved myself of ton of heartache. But maybe dad would never approve of any of my boyfriends anyway. To my sister’s annoyance, Dad predicted she had “one more baby in her” when she was of the age when it would be difficult to have another baby. She didn’t know it but she was pregnant at the time. She had her last baby in her early forties which is a rather impressive feat.
Dad never called England “England” or “the UK”. It was always “Dingland”. I think it was to show his annoyance that I made my life so far from home. A few months ago, when we were considering a nursing home for him, I told dad to stop giving mom such a hard time. I asked him where he wanted to live: with mom, with my sister or in a goddamned nursing him. “I want to be with you,” he said to me. “What? In Dingland?” I said without even realising how deeply embedded his nickname for England had become. I tried to repeat this joke in our last conversation when his hands and feet had danced when he heard my voice telling him I loved him for the final time.
A few years ago, Dad got himself a dog called Max. Max would follow dad around the house, doing a dog’s smile and looking up to him as if Dad were the king of the castle. I understood Max. Dad would indulge Max in all sorts of baby talk and furry cuddles. “Feel his sweet little hands” dad would ask he when I tried to butt in on the cuddles. He said something similar when we had admired my new baby sister so many years ago. We’d sit on the sofa stroking this dog’s paws like he was a human baby.
So I’m just a fatherless daughter who rides through to the sunrise in a Kenworth cracking silly jokes with the memory of the man who was the perfect father. I can close my eyes and feel Max’s sweet little hands and tease my sister that she still has one more baby in her. I can lay my head on my pillow in Dingland and wish that I looked more like him. Grandmother always said I was the apple of my father’s eye but before I was born, she said I was just the twinkle. I’ll try to let the anger go and I’ll pass on my father’s kindness just the way he would want me to when I stop feeling like shit.
And then I remember that Daddy would never have wanted to me to feel like shit or let anyone down. Blame it on that Sun-Moon conjunction.