The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

My father

My father smoked from the time he was a teenager to not long before he died of cancer in 1984 at the age of 52. He was a strong man. He worked all day at the paper mill and then worked on our small farm when he got home. He was never sick until one January in 1984 when he started having trouble breathing. We were digging a trench to run an underground electrical cable to the new barn. "Boy, I just can't catch my breath," he said. He went to the doctor. The doctor ordered a biopsy. The biopsy showed inoperable cancer. Less than seven months later he was dead after months of painful radiation and chemotherapy treatments. My dad was a good man, who overcame a level of poverty we could never comprehend. He talked very little of his childhood. We spent hours working together in the fields or perched next to one another on the tractor. But I knew almost nothing of his childhood until his funeral. His mother had died when he was a child and when his father remarried a year later, the children from the first marriage were put out on the street. It was the 1930s in Circleville, Ohio. His oldest brother and his wife took some of them in and an elderly black man who lived down the street took in my father and a few other children, who also were homeless. They worked picking crops for different farmers and stole coal from slow moving trains to fuel the stove. He dropped out of school to work and when he was 10 he met my mother visiting a cousin's farm. He told my mother he'd marry her one day. At 17 he joined the Navy during the Korean War. At 19 he called home from his base in Norfolk. He'd written a letter to my mother's best friend and sent the ring to her to take to my mother, then a bank teller, to give to her when he proposed over the phone. My mother's friend visited us on the night when we received the biopsy results. She was a registered nurse. She and my mom cried for a long time. As kids, my sisters and I had often encouraged my father to quit smoking. He tried. He tried several times. But he couldn't stop. The cigarette in the morning was as natural to him as his coffee. I had just turned 20 when he died. I was working that summer at the paper mill when the foreman came up to me and told me the call had come. I raced out the gates and to my truck and threw in my hard hat on the seat next to me and slammed the truck into gear and drove with a desperate and terrible fear that I would get to the hospital too late. Dad had wanted to die at home, but it wasn't to be. He was not conscious when I arrived. The rest of the family was already there by his chair. The cancer had made it uncomfortable for him to lay down so he had slept for months in his chair from home. He passed away soon after I arrived. I've often thought that if a tobacco company executive ever crossed my path, it would be his last step. Twenty years after my father's death, I still miss him terribly. He never got to hold my children. I can remember him with his first two grandchildren, both girls. They followed him on the farm like two rambunctious puppies and he'd set them beside him on the tractor. I miss that he's not here to do that with my daughters. If you smoke, please take this opportunity to make a New Year's resolution to decide to stop.


Blogger Charles said...

You brought tears to my eyes with that. Thanks

1/14/2005 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous PhillyGal said...

Hey, Carnacki --- haven't been here for weeks -- good stories, and I sure enjoyed reading about your dad -- he was too young to die though, and it's a tremendous loss for your family.

Miss you --- Hey! I've been collecting scary Pootie pics for you, which I'll forward on soon.

Take good care of you, and yours :)

7/03/2005 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Carnacki said...

Thanks PhillyGal. Please send me those pootie pix. I haven't done friday vampire cat blogging in ages. You take care too. Give everyone in C&J a shout out for me please.

7/03/2005 03:24:00 PM  

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