The county attorney knocked on our door around 8 pm. I jokingly asked if I was being arrested. No, but could he come in? Now, my mind was wandering a million directions on why he would be here. Was it about an email I sent to the school board? Or was it because I hadn’t given money to the debt-drive at church yet (he is also a member of our church)? No and no.
My dad was found dead.
My dad was known for going to the bar at the same time every day. I (and everyone else in our small town) always knew when and where to find him if needed. Seems he didn’t show up at the bar for a couple days, so some guys were nice enough to go check on him. They found him in his car in the garage. The death certificate states the manner of death was suicide and the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.
I was speechless. I couldn’t even operate my phone to call my brother or my aunt. Luckily, the county attorney contacted them while with me, and even went with us to tell my Grandma Betty that her only son had passed away. And during this time, my phone was ringing off the hook and friends were already gathering at my home as the rumor was spreading all over town. That’s the good and the bad of living in a small town.
My dad had threatened suicide several times over the years. He had health problems galore. Man, did he hate that “shit bag” he had to have after a bout with colon cancer. And he had financial troubles from gambling debts to just plain bad decisions. I always said he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. I blamed it on the neurological effects from being in a bad car wreck when I was nine, but since finding his old report cards, his grades were definitely not scholarly. I filled out paperwork for him to get on disability and gave him money when I could. But the more I gave, the more he wanted that I had to cut him off. He only ever called me when he needed paperwork filled out or needed money. He hadn’t asked me for money lately, probably because the last couple of times I told him I didn’t have any to give him.
The last call I got from him was two weeks beforehand. He called later than usual, and I teased him for being up so late as he usually went to bed with the chickens. I thought it was odd that he only called to tell me I need to go visit Grandma more often. “I just had lunch with her yesterday, Dad,” I remember saying. Yes, he knew, but I need to see her more. Was he preparing me to take his place of visiting her every other day?
I was up all night long crying, feeling guilty for not doing more to help him. And I had so many unanswered questions. When he threatened suicide, he mentioned shooting himself, and he had guns at home, so why didn’t he use them? And most people that threaten suicide usually do so for attention and never really go through with it. I just couldn’t believe he would actually kill himself.
The next morning, I talked to the mortician that embalmed my dad (who also happens to be married to my cousin). He swore by the number of times he had to inject my dad’s heart, that it looked like my dad had a heart attack. A huge relief was lifted off my shoulders that there was now a glimpse of hope that there was a chance it wasn’t a suicide. Maybe he had a heart attack and became incoherent in the car? Maybe he had a heart attack, and was in so much pain, he decided to take his life then? At least then, it wasn’t my fault for not giving him money. Maybe I was just looking for excuses?
I didn’t cry at my dad’s funeral. I think I was all cried out. I looked at his body one last time in the casket, studying everything about him from his thinning hair (he always wore a hat, so I rarely saw the top of his head) to the huge creases in his earlobes. And then I started to cry, I think out of guilt for not crying earlier.
The next day, as we made out thank-you cards, my aunt mentioned that she had creases in her earlobes and was told it was a sign of heart disease. I stopped in my tracks and took that as a sign from God when I then told her about how I noticed Dad had huge creases in his earlobes. Earlobe creases are linked to heart attacks. And just now when I found that link, it also says baldness at top of head (which I just wrote about) and fatty deposits around the eyes (which he also had), are also signs of men at risk of having heart attacks. Two more signs!
The biggest sign came in the form of a dream I had two days later. An old classmate of mine went with me to my dad’s house to get some things. When I turned around because a light flickered back on, I saw my dad sitting in his recliner. Only I could see him, my friend couldn’t. I asked if he flicked the lights, and he laughed. I then said, “You look awful spiffy” to which he replied, “Well, it’s nice in Heaven.” He went on to tell me he did have a heart attack, and we had a nice talk.
Thinking back, the light beside Dad’s casket flickered during the funeral as well. And I found the photo above of my dad that looked exactly like he did in my dream. Weird signs I tell ya.
An autopsy was never performed, and Dad’s body was cremated, so we may never know the truth about his death. But I’m holding the theory with me that my dad died of a heart attack and not suicide to get me by in the days ahead. Lord knows I need strength as last week my grandfather also died, and now my boyfriend has colon cancer. But those are posts for another day.