divorce, Ex, family, obits

Another ray of light…

I love this arrangement…

This morning, Bill got the news that his father, Ray, passed away. It happened at about 1:30am, our time. Ray was not alone when he died. His wife was holding his hand and there was a Catholic priest with him. We were not surprised that he died. Last night, Bill was told that his father’s kidneys were failing and he was on a ventilator. So we knew this news would be coming to us soon… and Bill even said that it was probably going to happen within hours.

I didn’t know Ray very well. I visited his house a few times, but unfortunately, our relationship was rather stunted. Many of the reasons we never knew each other that well have to do with the fact that Bill and I have always lived far away from him. But there are also other reasons we were so distant. A lot of it has to do with family drama.

Bill grew up mostly without his dad around because his parents divorced when he was very young, and his mom moved him away from the Memphis, Tennessee area, where Bill’s dad had lived almost his whole life. Bill’s parents were from extreme northeastern Arkansas in an area so rural that Bill was born in Missouri, because there weren’t any hospitals in the Arkansas town where his parents lived. A couple of years later, they moved to Memphis, where Bill’s dad found work and settled down permanently.

When Bill was married to his ex wife, she developed a relationship with Bill’s dad and stepmother. She basically claimed them as her parents, probably because they were more the type of people she would have preferred to be her parents than the people who raised her were. And she used Bill’s daughters and her son from her first marriage as a way to leverage that relationship. Ray adored his grandchildren, so Ex would use that love to get what she wanted. Ex even used Ray’s home as the setting for multiple hurtful dramas toward Bill. It was in Ray’s house that she demanded a divorce and then banished herself to the guest room for hours.

Naturally, when I came on the scene, there were a lot of ghosts of the past… I think Bill’s dad and stepmother had trouble adjusting to me. I’m not at all like Ex is, and I think they thought I was a snob. Ray was Bill’s best man at our wedding, which took place on November 16, 2002. The night before the ceremony, Bill was nervous. His mom said to him, “Bill, don’t worry. No one ever died at the altar.” The next day, Ray was trying to emulate the soldiers who were there in uniform and he locked his knees. Just as Bill and I were about to recite our vows, Ray fainted! And Bill was horrified because he thought he’d killed his father! Meanwhile, the wedding photographer was taking pictures until she caught one of me glaring at her through my veil.

I looked forward to getting to know Ray better after the wedding. Unfortunately, it never really happened. I visited them a few times, but we’d end up spending most of the time talking about Ex and the kids. There wasn’t much time for them to get to know me as a person, although I do fondly remember bonding over banana pudding with Bill’s dad and stepmother the last time Bill and I visited them together, almost eleven years ago.

The last time Bill saw his dad in person was in May 2014. I stayed home in Texas and took care of our dogs while he visited his father, mainly because I didn’t feel comfortable in Ray’s home. Ray’s wife can be wonderful, but she’s never liked me very much. I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted, so I opted to stay home. At the time, Bill was transitioning out of the Army and we needed to save the money, anyway. Bill said the visit was awkward, although he was glad he went to see his dad.

Then my father suddenly died, and we moved to Germany… and COVID-19 happened, making travel difficult. It wasn’t easy to maintain those ties. But the truth is, Bill had felt kind of disconnected from his family, anyway. His stepmother would send him texts and private messages on Facebook, shaming him and demanding that he call or visit. And Bill would call, but his father sometimes didn’t seem interested in hearing from him. So Bill simply went on with his life. I sometimes wondered what would happen when the inevitable came to pass. I still don’t know.

A couple of weeks ago, Ray went into the hospital with pneumonia that had gone septic. He was reportedly terrified and already planning his own funeral, although initially, it seemed like maybe he’d get better. At one point, doctors thought he might have COVID-19, but it turned out he didn’t. His doctors did get the pneumonia under control. A CT scan revealed scarring on his lungs caused by pulmonary fibrosis and making it difficult for him to breathe. He’d also broken his back twice because he had osteoporosis.

The initial plan was to give him a drug to make his bones stronger and do surgery. When I heard about that, I started thinking that what was happening was Ray’s preparation to leave this life. I have had enough experience to know that when a person gets to a certain age and multiple things start going wrong, it’s a sign that time is getting short. Nevertheless, he was intubated a few days ago. Last night, his kidneys started to fail and his heart rate was all over the place. Bill and I knew that it was only a matter of time. Indeed, it was just a few hours.

One of my covers… this is a very healing song.

Bill did get to talk to his dad one more time. He saw the top of his head on Skype and they had a chance to say “I love you” to each other. We both feel glad that he had that chance. I was similarly blessed on Father’s Day in 2014, when I called my parents and spoke to my dad, who was unusually lucid that day. I remember telling him that I loved him, too. He was gone less than three weeks later.

One of the really sad things about our current times is that many people are dying alone. We’re grateful that Ray was spared that experience. He had his wife and a priest with him, and many people sending love… But unfortunately, I don’t know when Bill will be able to pay his respects in person. That’s what really sucks the most about this– along with the fact that his daughters may also be denied that chance, at least until the virus is more under control. There is no way Bill can go now, though, thanks to the travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, and everything else.

Bill spoke to his younger daughter last night on Skype. She said that she’d sent a message to Bill’s still estranged older daughter about this situation. Ex apparently reads older daughter’s texts, so she found out about Ray, too. And it would not be surprising if Ex got it in her head to try to visit during this time and, perhaps, horn in on SMIL’s grief. Bill does have a sister who has a wife– hopefully she, along with SMIL’s friends, will be strong enough to protect SMIL from Ex. It may seem crass to point this out in a post about death, but unfortunately, this is the kind of thing Ex does. She’s done it repeatedly over the years. She is a big fan of “ye olde surprise visit”, then she lays guilt trips on her victims to get them to host her and be an audience to her self-absorbed dramatics. I know older daughter is upset about this and, if she hasn’t already heard about Ray’s death, she’ll probably be devastated when she does get the news.

However, this situation may also have a silver lining. I have also pointed out that this may turn out to be the thing that gets older daughter to pull her head out of her ass and speak to Bill again. I don’t know… Death has a way of helping people put things in perspective. I hope she is deep enough to realize that we don’t have as much time as she might think. Life is full of surprises. Older daughter is 29 years old and really needs to grow up and face reality. But that’s just my opinion, of course, and I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that. I don’t know her perspective at all. I could only try to guess. Personally, I think it’s tragic that Bill’s daughters have lost so much time with their family, due to divorce and petty grievances.

This post may seem kind of dry and matter-of-fact. I wish it weren’t so. Although I did know Ray and liked him very much, I never got to know him well enough to love him as much as I could have. But I do love his son with all of my heart, so I’m going to do what I can to help him through this. I truly hope that Ex has enough class to keep her distance during this time. Unfortunately, I have a feeling she may try to make this about her.

I think if there hadn’t been so much divorce and parental alienation in the family, Bill and his dad would have been very close. Ray was a really kind man, and Bill shares that kind spirit with him. I know Bill will take today to grieve and adjust to the news.

Incidentally, like Alex Trebek, who also died yesterday, Ray was also 80 years old. If there is a Heaven, maybe they’re playing a round of Jeopardy. In any case, I wish I had known Ray better. He was a good man, and I know his son is heartbroken that his father is gone.