A Scar for Life

Back in 1998, it was a nice sunny California day. Life was good. An unexpected call changed all that. Events would leave a scar on me forever.

I was living the dream in Corona, California. Still employed at Delta Dental Plan of California, I could afford to rent a three bedroom house. It was a typical weekend of drinking and watching NASCAR on TV.

The phone rang. It was Mom. We had been estranged for years due to us both suffering from our disease of alcoholism. She called to remind me of coming to dinner the next day to speak to Dad about my financial future. “Yes, Mom I’ll be there.”

The next day, Monday, September 28, 1998, I woke up at 5 a.m. to get on the road for rush hour traffic to get to work by 8 a.m. only 40 miles away. After work I drove to my parents house in Seal Beach, a simple 20 minute ride. As I approached the house, I took a deep breath, “Be civil with Mom, Dan (my childhood nickname my parents called me).” The front door was locked but I thought nothing of it. Mother answered and invited me in to sit in the family room.

“Where’s dad?”

“I have something to tell you.”

Nothing prepared me for what I heard next. My mother explained that on Friday night she was calling for my father who was upstairs and he didn’t respond. She went up to their bedroom on the third floor to find him. She found him bleeding through the ears, nose and mouth. She immediately called 911 and they took him to the local hospital. He laid in the hospital until that Monday morning when he died. Tears were flowing freely from the both of us. I became hysterical.

When I gained my composure, I asked, “Does Karen (my sister) know?” She said she hadn’t called her yet. “What about Uncle Lee (my father’s brother). She shook her head. I made her call them both immediately.

We found out my mother was left in extreme debt. She didn’t handle any of the large finances, only the small utility bills and such. All the bigger finances were handled by my Father. My uncle came from Chicago, Illinois to help with that for a couple of days. When it was done, he learned my Father had three outstanding mortgages on the house, five credit cards all their credit lines exhausted and other lines of credit. A small blessing happened when we learned one of the credit cards would cover $10,000 of the debt upon the death of the cardholder. What about the rest?

There was also the home they had bought in 1981. Later we learned it was appraised for close to $500,000. However, at the time, the real estate market was in shambles. In the end it took, almost a year for my Mother to sell the house through a “shady” real estate broker. She ended up selling it for close to $250,000. Through our Uncle they had discussed her declaring bankruptcy after this was all said and done.

Through the following decade, in an alcoholic’s true fashion all I could think of is, “Dad, how could you do this to me? What am I going to do now? Who’s going to bail me out of rent, bills, my gambling debts?” Well that’s another drama for another day.

All those feelings have obviously changed in another decade. Now when I think of both parents, I remember the good times we had together, as few as they were. Yet, those are the memories I choose to hold on to. I took me decades to understand alcoholism, both my own as well as how it affected my parents and out family.

I use to say I will always have opened wounds never to be healed. Yet today, I feel I just have little scars for life. A slow transition of healing has started and continues to this day.

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