My Father Died Today

My father died today.

He’s been sick for awhile. Cancer – I think. But I’m not sure which kind.

Actually, he’s been sick for a long. long time. Since I was little and he left. Really, since the war.

He fought in Vietnam before I was born. He was in the Marines and from what I can gather (from my grandmother and my mom, when she was willing to speak of him) he signed back up for a second tour of duty after he saw his friend die during his first tour.

“To get even.”

He came home and met and married my mom after discovering she was pregnant. With me.
I always believed it was my fault our family was the way it was. Broken.
Because she wouldn’t have married him if I wasn’t on the way.

Alcohol. Gambling. Physical and emotional abuse. Adultery.

Luckily I was somewhat oblivious to what my mom went through. But when I was seven and my sister was four, my mom told me that he was leaving and then we got coloring books.

I guess I’ve been grieving his absence for a long time. After he left the first time, he really never came back. I didn’t understand why. I wanted a real family. I was embarrassed that we weren’t normal. I was mad that my mom was always working and that she was always angry. Mostly, I just wanted a daddy…someone to wrap his arms around me and tell me everything was going to be ok. But he couldn’t ever do that – even when he was around. Because HE wasn’t ok.

When I was in college he called. It had been more than a decade since I had seen or heard from him. I didn’t know what to say. He called a few times more and after my husband and I graduated from college we travelled to Florida to “meet” him. We had several meals together, which we paid for. We picked him up a random locations in our rental car…a block from “a friend’s house”. We think he was homeless. But he didn’t say and we didn’t ask.

But he was definitely sick. He told us stories we knew weren’t true and spoke of the purple heart award we knew he hadn’t won. He had been married and divorced several times. I heard later that he often told girlfriends that he was a widower…that my mom had died. It was unclear to me whether or not he knew that it wasn’t true.

I grieved not having a father throughout my entire life. At the big events – for sure. A father-daughter dance in Middle School. My high school graduation. Parent’s Day at College. My wedding.

But more so during the not-so-significant events in my life. When I fell off my bike and skinned my knee. When someone picked at me at school. When a boy broke up with me and broke my heart.

In the end he died alone after weeks with hospice arranged through his affiliation with the military – not through loved ones. There won’t be a funeral. Or memorial service. Or celebration of his life. He’ll be buried and that will be that.

Whenever I watch my husband and my daughter interact…I am so happy. So thankfully and glad that Annie has a lap to sit in and two, big strong arms to protect her. But something inside me also aches…knowing I never had that. And even though I am sure I’ve known for a long, long time that it never would, there’s something pretty final about learning that…

My father died today.



  1. 1
    LindaD says:

    Oh Jennifer. I am sorry for your loss. Both the present day loss and the loss for what you always wanted from your dad. Thank you for this glimpse of your heart as well. Hugs.

  2. 2
    beke rios says:

    I love you.

  3. 3
    Nadilah Sungkar Magee says:

    I'm sorry for your loss, I have been there, my father died from heart attack so sudden and so sad. Hugs..

  4. 4
    Diana - Teacher Mom says:

    Jennifer, my heart goes out to you…

  5. 5
    Atypical Girl says:

    I originally came just to enter a giveaway and I looked around for more giveaways and found this post.

    Jennifer, I am so sorry about your loss…the loss of everything. I will be praying for you.

  6. 6
    Nancy W says:

    Hugs sweet friend!

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