Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Passing

Hi, I am so glad you are here. I want to share a story with you today. It is my story. Well part of my story called life. It is written from my perspective at the age of ten. I hope you enjoy. 

Oh, it is pretty long. About 4100 words. So sit back and enjoy a moment reading and getting to know me a little bit better. Ahhh. I am so nervous. Okay, I am going to hit the publish button  - now.


Why can’t you ever reach someone when you really need to? This was our second trip to this pay phone. The four of us crammed in the phone booth. Sweat pouring down. My little sisters clammy small body pressed up against mine and my brother fidgeting somewhere around our feet. The air is stagnant. I hear myself screaming in my head. I can’t stand it. I have to get out but I need to be by my Mom’s side more.

Mom hangs up the phone. I look up waiting for her to say something.  She just sighs and hangs her head.

The door slides open.  The hot air outside of the booth is refreshing.

The four of us walk home in silence.  I look down at my feet. The cement almost looks white as the sun reflects back up into my eyes.  

“Step on a crack and break your mothers back.” What a strange thing to sing.  Who made this up? I don’t want to break my mother’s back. I avoid the cracks which means I have to make the occasional big step or make two quick steps every once in a while.

Mom walks right into the house. I stood last in line and hesitated. I don’t want to go inside. I don’t want to stay outside either. The sun is beating down on me. I could feel my skin burning. Blistering.

I glance down. I’m still wearing my bathing suit and shorts. I like this bathing suit. It’s a pretty blue with big pink flowers.

The supper dishes are still on the table.

Angie and I sit on the steps leading to the second floor.  From here we can see into the kitchen and into the living room. I don’t know where Mom is. Victor is wandering around like nothing has happened. I don’t think he understands what has happened. I do. Angie does

Everything feels so weird. Almost like dream. I don’t know how I came to be standing with my little sister in the middle of the living room. We don’t dare get any closer.

Victor. Come here. I whisper.

Angie and I kneel down to his level. He is small for three and a half. That’s what Mom says anyway.

Hey Victor, go kiss daddy. Urges Angie.

Go ahead. It’s okay. Go on, I added.

Victor trots over to the couch and gave a quick little kiss on Dad’s cheek then ran back to me smiling. He put his chubby little arms around my neck. I held him close. I wish I was brave enough to walk right over there and kiss Dad too. I knew Angie was thinking the same thing.

Victor. Go kiss dad again. I say with a forced smile. He doesn’t need coaxing.  He does it two more times. He would again but I stop him.

Mom suddenly appeared. “We better make another trip to the pay phone.” The thought of that crammed hot phone booth was more than I could bear but we all obediently followed Mom to the booth and back.

I sat in the chair opposite of Dad, staring at him. Watching. Waiting. Did he just flinch? I think I saw his eye lashes move. No. Just my imagination. Was his breathing shallow? So shallow that it looked like he wasn’t breathing?

I knew better.

Last night Angie and I could hear Mom and Dad having a serious conversation downstairs in the living room.

We couldn't sleep. We lay on our beds wide awake. It was too hot. Angie’s bed was on the left side of the room and mine was on the right. There was about six feet between us with a small night table right in the middle against the wall and an area rug that was long blue fake fur on the oak floor.

Mom always left the hallway light on. The solid wood door was positioned so that my side of the room was bright with light and Angie’s side of the room lay in shadow.

We crept out of our beds and slowly made our way to the stairs. We knew exactly which step creaked and where but that did not matter. Stepping down slowly our bare feet crushed the pile of the rug. We feared the high pitch squeak of the stair would betray us. We looked at each other and stood frozen. Our ears strained. All I could hear was the thumping of my racing heart.

The conversation from the living room continued uninterrupted. Angie nudged me to move. Four more steps to the landing. We knelt, hunched on the floor side by side.

I peered around the corner. I couldn't see Mom. She must have been sitting on the chair opposite Dad who sat on the couch. His head hung low.

Mom’s voice was faint.

I whispered, “Can you hear what they are saying?”

Angie shock her head. Her eyes were wide. Staring up off to the right.  I did the same.

In a rumbling soft voice Dad said, “I love you. I love the girls and Victor.”

I snuck another look. It was so difficult to make out the words. He can’t live without us? Was mom thinking about leaving him again? We just moved back home a few months ago.

Angie spoke up. I think Mom is trying to get Dad to go to the hospital. I just looked at her, my face scrunched up. Angie shrugged her shoulders, her lower lip dropped in that weird way that says “I don’t know.”

Mom was talking again. Dad guzzled down half a beer.

He looked around the room, stopping at each picture on the walls. Studying them. Lost in his thoughts.

There was a five by seven black and white picture of his sister and her husband on the wall to his left. A little further away was a couple of pictures of his niece and nephew forever five and six years old. Over to the wall directly in front of him were our latest school pictures and our baby pictures. He turned his attention to the wall on his right. More family pictures. Dad took another swig of his beer and put the bottle down on coffee table.

Mom’s voice continued like a distant humming.

Dad stood up abruptly. Ang and I flinched. Ready to run. He staggered into the kitchen, opened the fridge door and grabbed another beer. The clanking of the bottles on the fridge door and the snap of the cap was our chance to get back up to beds undetected.

I jumped into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin. No matter how hot it was I had to have my blankets wrapped tightly around me.

Ang and I looked at each other across the room. Sleep crept up on me.

The morning sun shone into our large bedroom window. Along with it came the extreme heat. It’s the heat that makes it hard to wake up. The mind is sluggish and easily slips back into slumber. At times like this it is better to movequickly out of bed  before the eyes even open.

Dad slept on the couch again last night. That would be three nights in a row. He slept there and he drank there.

At some point in the morning Dad yelled out to me as I was passing through the hallway, “Darlene, please get me a beer.”

When Dad spoke, you jumped. As I was about to pull a bottle out from the fridge Mom snapped at me. “Don’t you dare take him a beer?”

I was stunned. Standing there with the door open, the cool air seeping towards me.

Dad hollered at me, “Darlene bring it here! “

I turned my head and looked up at mom then swerved my eyes toward the hallway. The butterflies were swooping.

Mom grabbed the beer from me and put it back in place. 

“Darlene!” Dad was mad now. I didn't want the belt. 

Mom pushed me out the front door. I could breathe again. The light blinded me for a moment. I ran over to Angie who was waiting for me. Our Barbie stuff was spread out in front of her.

Mom was in a bad mood. It was dad’s drinking that made her feel like that.

Mom decided to take us to the outdoor pool at Riverside Park. She said that if we finished our supper quickly we could make it in time for the family swim.

For a while it was a flurry of activity. We gobbled up our food. Rushed around to put our bathing suits on and find our towels.

Angie and I sat on the steps waiting for mom to get victor ready.

Now Angie will say that it was her that noticed the difference in Dad but I am pretty sure that it was me. We were sitting on the steps waiting for mom to get victor’s shoes on. Dad was sitting up on the couch. I thought this was so strange. He had been lying down on the couch all day. What was even stranger was his neck. It wasn’t dark red anymore. The colour seemed to be fading.


We called mom to come look at dad.

She stood there at the doorway for a moment. Her movements were methodical, deliberate. Like watching a movie in slow motion, Mom walked gradually towards Dad. She gently touched his face. She eased him over and laid him down. Her hand hovered over his mouth and nose. She placed her ear against his chest. She plugged his nose.
She didn’t have to say anything.

As she picked up her purse and checked for change, mom explained that we needed to walk to the phone booth to make a call. She took victor’s hand and started walking out the door. Ang and I followed. I guessed we weren’t going swimming.

Mom was flipping through the phone book which was chained to the booth. She kept flipping back and forth. Her face was creased with concern.

The dime clinked down the slot. The sound of the dial was quick then released gradually moving back to its original position. Again and again and again till seven numbers were dialed.

I heard mom talking but I wasn’t really paying attention. The sound of the cars going past drowned out her voice.

Families were getting treats at the dairy queen. Kids were laughing and licking up their ice-cream which was melting faster than they could lick. I wished I could have one.

The sound of the receiver hanging up snapped me back. Mom’s eyes were tear filled. The salty liquid seemed to just pool there.

The waiting started.

The clock ticked in the kitchen. The tiles around the kitchen went two thirds of the way up the wall. They were a bright weird kind of green trimmed at the top with a black tiled border. The green had swirls of black throughout them. The floors tiles were pinkish with black specks. I imagined drawing an endless line around the tiles first on the walls then on the floors. The goal was to never overlap a line but to complete as many squares as possible.

The waiting continued. The clock continued to tick. Even the silence had a weird buzzing sound.

Someone was coming up the sidewalk to our steps. His right foot eased up the first step but his left foot didn’t go up high enough and he tripped. It happens to everyone. Well everyone but us. The second step is higher than the others. We’re used to it.

Mom rises from her chair and greets the man at the door. He is our family doctor. Come to make a home visit.

They speak to one another so that we can’t hear.

They somber into the living room. Angie and I wait long enough for them to not notice that we are following. We want to see too.

He’s checking Dad. Just like Mom did.  They are talking again. Why won’t’ they let us hear. I want to know what is going on. WHAT IS GOING ON?

Mom turns her head and looks at us. We scurry back into the kitchen and sit down.  It’s too quite in here. I hear a ringing sound and that stupid clock.

And now we are waiting again. Time is ticking….ticking… t...i…c…k…i…n…g.

If I sit real still and victor stays quiet I can hear parts of the conversation in the living room. The Doctor wants to give us something to relax us. Mom doesn’t want it.

A stranger is coming up to the door. It is hard to see clearly through the screen. One foot up a step and…. Trip.

I don’t know who this guy is. He is examining dad. The three of them, mom, our family Doctor and this stranger are all speaking to one another. Taking turns nodding and glancing at dad.

……….kidney failure……..

………. Swollen tongue……

……….yellowish tinges to his skin…..

What is that smell? Urine coming from the couch? Baking in the heat. I wish we could go swimming.

The stranger is gone. Our doctor is gone. Dad is still in the living room. Just lying there.

Mom takes some pictures of Dad. We stand a safe distance from him. His shirt is unbuttoned and the sides of his shirt are pushed to away exposing his hairy chest. His pants are undone and the button flapped over exposing the stitching.

Back to the kitchen.


I can see a face in the swirls of black on the green tile. That sorta looks like two eyes. And a nose and a mouth. Maybe some hair and one ear.

Will today ever end?

Who has come knocking on our front door? These men are in dark suits. Shiny shoes. They are taking dad with them. Where is he going? Will I get to see him again? They are taking him down the steps. Be careful the second last step down is a big one.

I don’t hear the clock anymore. I’m tired. I just want sleep. My heart hurts. It is aching and I feel so sad. And guilty.

A car has pulled into the driveway. Doors are opening and shutting. Voices. Familiar voices. Aunt Betty. Aunt Mae. Uncle Fud. My cousin’s Carol and Robert.

The commotion from our guests drown out the silence. 

All of kids huddle in the hallway. We don’t want to go into the living room.

The adults huddle and talk in the kitchen. Mom’s lips curve downwards. Her brow is tight. Aunt Betty and Mom hug.

Angie and I review the events of the day with Carol and Robert. Why are they crying? He was my dad.

Carol said the she saw Uncle Leslie walking on the side of the road as they were driving here. How strange she thought. Where was he going? Why was he walking? It couldn’t have been him. He was here all day. She swears that she saw him clear as a bell.

Spirits. They are real. 

Where does the soul go when it leaves the body?  Was he here now? Watching us?

Aunt Mae wants us to pray. We hold hands cramped in the small area in front of the stove. I lower my head instinctively but look up and around to see what everyone else is doing. Aunt make’s eyes are closed and mumbling to the lord.

That stench is overbearing. I am glad they are taking the couch outside. When I look at it I see dad laying there lifeless.

We are all so tired but we can’t sleep. We cuddle together in Mom’s bed. Every once in a while a waft of stagnant urine makes its way up through my Mom’s bedroom window. Is he here? Is he angry with me?

I drifted in and out of sleep all night. Pictures of dad walking beside the road. How could Carol see him? Was his spirit roaming around? Was he making his presence known to other relatives? Was he here now? Sleep Darlene. Don’t think about it. July twenty ninth is over.

Over the next two days Angie and I played as usual. But at night. That was different. As soon as the sun set our fears took over. The stairs creak. That putrid smell. Sanctuary. Safe. Mom’s bed. Another long night. Waking every time someone turned over.

Today’s the day. Relatives are gathering in our house. Such sad faces and colourless clothes. The sky shouldn’t be bright blue. It should be overcast. It should be raining. The happy sun should not be shining and bright.

Why do all funeral homes have that same smell? Is it the flowers? No. Flowers smell nice. This smell is different. It gets stronger when I get close to the casket. Is the smell coming from him? Is this what death smells like?

After today I won’t ever see Dad again. He looks so neat and trim. His hair combed back perfectly in place. Powder on his face. No red neck. His hands are folded across his stomach. He is wearing his suit.  A wedding ring on his finger.

People are crying and blowing their noses.

Mom is standing on my left with Victor up in her arms and Angie stands on my right. Paying our last respects. No just looking at him one more time. We stand in silence. No crying. We are the Nemeth family. We’re strong.

I have to touch him. This is my last chance.  My dad. It hurts so much in my chest and the pit of my stomach.

My hand seems to float in the air not attached to my body. I see it reaching out.  I place the back of my fingers on his check. He is so cold.

Clean shaven. No five o’clock shadow. He use to shave in the morning then by supper time his face was covered in whiskers. He liked to rub his prickly face against mine and hear me giggle while I pushed his face away. Never again.

Now my hand floats towards his hand. My fingers outstretched touching his skin. Why is he so cold? The skin on top of dad’s hand moves from the pressure of my fingers. Not soft and supple but thick like play dough.

My hand rests on his chest. It’s solid. Heavy. Dense. Like a rock. Not real.


He’s in the ground now.

Aren’t we supposed to be standing around a rectangle hole in the ground watching as they lower the casket, our Minister dressed in his robe with bible in hand praying? Aren’t we supposed to be all in black, sad faced listening to the soft pitter patter of rain drops on our umbrellas?

No not this. We are knelling, surrounded but wreaths of flowers on top of a mound of dirt. We’re not wearing black. They are muted colours. Greys and blues. The sun high in the sky. No Minister. My little cousins Neils and Natasha running around the cemetery in their bathing suits laughing and talking loud with Aunt Madeline running behind them.

Snapshots. For our family album.

We slept in our mom’s room for a week then it was back to our own rooms. The familiar felt good. Our bedroom door partially closed. Me in the light and Angie in the dark. 

Things will never be the same.

Aunt Mae moved in the day my dad died. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I believed that she never loved us as much as she loved Aunt Betty and her family. And yet she was here. Did mom feel any comfort in that? I didn’t. Someone else was sleeping on my dad’s side of the bed. It was no longer a safe place to go.

We needed a safe place. Being alone in the room with my sister was not safe. She was the younger one. If something should happen, I would have to be brave because I was the oldest. Kind of hard when you are ten and afraid of the dark.

Afraid of the sounds an old house makes. Creaking on the stairs. Creaking in the hallway outside our room.

A shadow in the hallway. Dad peeking in at us through the crack between the door and casing that it is hinged to. We both saw him. Looking in at us. Checking on us. As soon as I saw him, I jerked my head to the right and stared at Angie. She was staring at me because she saw him too.

Something so routine when you’re young. You’re father looking in at you as he passes your room on his way to bed. But not now. It isn’t comforting. It is scary.

Mom keeps reassuring us. Dad loved us. He wouldn’t want to hurt us.

And yet we continued to fear it. I am consumed with fear. Fear because of the guilt. The guilt that I cannot share with anyone.

I loved my dad. The laughing. The piggy back rides. Pulling his stinky work boots off when he got home from work. He thought it was hilarious watching us struggle. Gardening just him and me. So many fond memories.

Look at us all smiling in the photos in the albums. I was such a cute baby.  I especially like the black and white picture of mom holding me close pressing her check to mine. I’m not sure how old I am. Ten months maybe.

There are pictures of Mom and Dad when they first started dating. Mom is so beautiful. Dad acting silly for the camera making a weird face.

As I flip through time, the pictures become full colour. At the park. At the beach. Christmas. Dad is sitting on a couch and I am snuggled up close on one side and Angie crying on the other side. How old are we there? Four and six maybe? She didn’t want to be there.

Angie didn’t like sitting beside him at the supper table either. She didn’t want to be next to him when he got mad.

I don’t know when the drinking started. I just remember how angry he would get. Swearing in Hungarian with a loud voice.

Mom says the drinking got worse after Victor was born. I don’t know.

Friends couldn’t come over to play because their parents knew Dad like to drink too much.

But I knew he loved me. He was always so proud of me. He hung my artwork down in the basement in his workshop area. Delightfully displayed for him to look at whenever he was tinkering down there.

For every happy thought, the mind quickly shows you a sad one.

Dad has had too much to drink. Again. He is raving mad. Mom and he are fighting. Violently fighting.

Mom tells me to run next door to call the police. As I am running out the back door, dad is running after me into the night. My bare feet splash in the puddles and my wet hair whips against my face.

Sharp pain as my hair is yanked on and I am dragged back into the house.

While dad was busy with me, Angie has snuck out the front door safe and sound at our neighbor’s house sipping on hot chocolate. And I? Well I was in the house trembling with fear.

By the time the police arrived Dad had calmed down and was asleep.

Ah yes, memories that we all shared. Some memories only Dad and I shared. Memories that now only I had.

How can you love someone so much and hate them at the same time? How could I be so angry that I could make such a wish? A prayer actually to God. A request that fills me with guilt and remorse.

It wasn’t just a fleeting thought. It wasn’t something thought in a moment of anger. It was carefully thought out and intentional.

I killed my dad. No I did not go out and pay someone to shoot him or poison him. But I told God that I wished he was dead. And now he was.

If that isn’t a good reason to be angry with someone then I don’t know what is. He is probably furious with me. He wants to yell at the top of his lungs at me and whip me with his leather belt.

He can’t hurt me now. Or can he?

The truth is he can still hurt me. And he does for the next ten or more years.


  1. wow. i don't know what to say. Im sorry. sometimes parents dont realize how much damage they can do to their children until there is no way to fix it. Im sorry you had to live through that.

    1. Sara, thanks for your comments. It seems this post has everyone speechless. Life is not always easy but we survive and become stronger people.

  2. Wow, it is so moving. The details, like the 2nd porch step, had me right there with you. Thanks for sharing and for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday. You should look into having this published, it really is moving.

    1. Thank you so much Susan. I am glad my writing moved you. I was nervous about posting this because I didn't know how it would be received. Thanks for making my day - week!

  3. Beautifully written & so touching. I'm sorry for your losses - both before & after your Father's passing. My Father also died when I was very young, but under very different circumstances- I've been reading through the letters lately from the year of his death - it's a lot to deal with. As my Mom used to always say, none of us can ever really say "I know how you feel," even if we've had a similar life experience. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    1. Hi Anna,
      Thank you for both the compliment, condolence and prayer. I really appreciate them. Thanks so much. Sorry to hear about your loss.
      Bye for now, Darlene

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. It takes a lot of bravery and courage to write and to post about this. I am sorry for what you went through and sorry that you blamed yourself, a common childhood of abuse reaction.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.



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