April 12, 1984 was a beautiful Spring day that started out like any other. I was working for a fashion design school based in Manhattan, promoting their program to local high school students. On this particular day I was in Rye, NY, an upper class community located about 10 minutes from the modest, 2 bedroom apartment that I shared with my husband of 9 months. After greeting my cat and checking the mail, I listened to the messages on our answering machine.
It was my grandmother, and her message simply said ‘call. Your Father has been in an accident’. When I called, her words ‘doesn’t look good’ hit me hard, but I don’t think I fully understood what would happen next.
We took the hour long drive to my childhood home, a simple three bedroom, two bath ranch located in a typical suburban neighborhood with sidewalks and homes that were kept up with the pride that came with home ownership in the post WWII era. To the left of the entry was the living room, and we walked in to find my sister, grandmother and mother sitting there. My mother looked at me and said ‘daddy’s gone’.
Other than a few details here and there, I don’t remember too much of what happened after that. I learned he died after being hit by a truck and crushed against a wall while changing a tire. Two other people were injured, one fatally, who happened to be just 19 years old. The accident made the news and the papers. We could have done without the pictures.
He didn’t die immediately. An EMT happened to be a witness to the accident. My mother asked me to call him and see if he could shed some light on what happened. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know, but felt compelled nonetheless.
I was nervous, but I made the call. The EMT said he didn’t think he was in much pain, and that he seemed to be in shock and was more concerned with fighting for his life. He shared some things that were disturbing, and I elected to keep those to myself.
We had a closed casket. The brain injuries were extensive and caused a huge amount of swelling. My sister opted not to see him. She didn’t want to remember him in that way. As for me, I said my goodbyes but was ill prepared for what I saw. In spite of that, I knew I would remember him like this,
He died less than 9 months after our wedding. My father was the glue that held the family together. He was an easy going, likable man that got along with everyone. But everyone is gone now.
You may be wondering about the title of this post. Today I am the exact age, to the day, my father was when he died. He was 59 and would have turned 60 a little over three months after his death. (There is a way to compare the passage of time from one year to the next using an on line tool.)
Even as a child, I was never one to think people in their 50’s or 60’s were old, but I remember thinking at the time that my father had ‘lived his life’. That feels very weird to me now, since I am now the same age and I don’t feel anywhere near that point. Perhaps it had a lot to do with how my parents lived, which was a very simple life, rarely traveling or even socializing. They were the original homebodies, and I’m not sure retirement was something that my father looked forward to.
But it would have been nice to find out.