My previous blog entry was a crass attempt to avoid what has been occupying my thoughts for the past week and a half.
On the morning of Tuesday, November 15th, my stepfather took a handgun into his backyard and killed himself with it. Now, ten days later, I still have not processed this information completely.
At about 11:30 that day I received two phone calls on my cell phone. One was from a number I did not know, but I recognized the area code as being from Indianapolis, where my mom and stepdad live. The second was from my mom. I was at work and did not answer in time. She didn’t leave a message, so I called back. She was able to say, “Something terrible has happened,” but was too hysterical to get out more, so she handed the phone off to a woman who identified herself as police officer. May I just pay my compliments to the Indianapolis Police Department’s sensitivity training: Never has a bandage been so gently ripped off. She told me what happened, and asked how quickly I could get there. I explained that I was in Chicago and it would be several hours. She gave the phone back to my mom, and I told her I was on my way. I don’t know if she heard me. She asked me to call my brothers and sisters and I said of course. I called my wife and went home, then spent about fifteen minutes building up the courage to do the single most difficult thing I have ever done in my life: I called my stepbrother to tell him his father had died.
My wife came home and went into stage-manager mode. She arranged for the car rental and hotel, and off we went. (Side note: Through an odd quirk we ended up with a BMW for the week. It had built in GPS, which proved to be invaluable as we coordinated various airport and hotel pickups and dropoffs for our family. We named the GPS “Lucy.”)
The rest of the week is something of a blur. My family has always dealt with difficulty through humor, so there was a lot of laughing. That helped. I met my newest nephew, 3-month-old William. I met my sister-in-law for the first time, which was awesome. She has her hands full with my stepbrother, who understandably is taking it hard. I think if anyone is up to the task, though, it is this fantastic addition to the family.
I also met another family member, and this just adds to dream-like quality of the past week. My mother revealed to me many years ago that when she was in high school she gave birth to a baby girl, whom she gave up for adoption. About a year and a half ago, they met for the first time. This woman, my older half-sister, came in for the funeral. There are many things about the past ten days about which I have yet to sort out my feelings. This is perhaps the strangest.
I have never been in a position to make funeral arrangements before. Our needs were basic. There would be – could be – no viewing. There would be no religious ceremony. He would be cremated. The ashes will added to his garden, so there was no need for an expensive urn. There was just a two-hour visitation, and I was happy to see how many people came. The funeral director was fantastic, and took care of everything. Even getting the obituary in the paper. All part of the package.
Considering how minimal our requirements were, I am astounded by how much it cost. If Mandy or I were to die suddenly, the surviving partner would be completely screwed.
My mom is handling things as well as can be expected – better, actually. Right now she is in Seattle, spending Thanksgiving with one of my sisters. She’ll be in Phoenix with another sister for Christmas. She has already started talking about changes she wants to make to the house. My siblings an I are planning a reunion trip to Indianapolis next summer, to help fix up the place.
I don’t really have much else to say about it right now. I have no appropriate eulogy for my stepfather. I knew him for almost a quarter of a century, but apparently I didn’t know him that well.