finding out my father died

My dad and his second wife.

Like a lot of kids my parents divorced when I was pretty young. My dad never really got over the whole thing, and his inability to accept the reality of the situation had a pretty big impact on how I knew and perceived him. Throughout the days he remained in San Diego (mostly just my early elementary years), he seemed to want my mom back more than he really wanted to be involved with me. I seemed to be a tool in that campaign of his. Eventually he gave up on that concept and moved to Arizona. I never physically saw him again. My remaining contact with him was limited to questionably sober phone calls, and overly delusional letters in his perfect cursive. My opinion of him was pretty neutral through most of my growing up. My mom wasn’t overly fond of his character (which was more tragic than malicious), but overall she didn’t really influence my view of him. He was really his own worst enemy in that regard, although it never seemed like he ever grasped that. He was big on blaming everyone other than himself.

The defining moment when I gave up on him came sometime during mid high school for me. Like a lot of teenagers I developed a fleeting notion that I might learn to play an instrument and be in a band. I wasn’t a particularly ambitious teen, and didn’t have a job to just go out and purchase a guitar and amp right away. So I asked my dad, who since departing for Arizona when I was very young had not contributed monetarily to my existence once. I knew he wasn’t well off, but he was a lifelong musician and I thought that not only would he appreciate my interest in music, but he might have a connection to at least help me get what I needed. I never heard back from him about it. In fact he didn’t contact me for at least a year if not longer after I made my request. When I did finally hear from him he sent me a bizarre accusatory letter written to me on stationary I had made when I was very little. It was borderline creepy. He basically made me off to be greedy and only in contact him for money. It was pretty ridiculous considering how little he had contributed to us. I wrote him back and told him that if we were ever to have a relationship again it would be on my terms. I was pretty angry with him for a time. It faded quickly to indifference.

After I got out of high school my mom and I changed our last names to her maiden name. She had been holding on to his last name more for me, and I had no affinity for it. After the thing with the guitar I liked the idea of distancing myself from him. I also wanted to pay a bit of homage to my grandfather, who was a much bigger factor in my life than my dad ever was. I used to be a Michael Joshua, but I dropped Michael and became Joshua Claude. My dad was a Robert Michael, and he always went by Michael. I had always gone by Joshua. And my grandfather’s first name was Claude. Hopefully that’s making a little bit of sense.

A year or two after high school while I was at work one night my dad showed up at the house with a guitar for me. It was at least 2 or 3 years after I had already purchased a guitar, given up on it as a hobby, and sold it. My mother said he looked really bad and she barely recognized him. He wanted to know where I worked, but my mom didn’t tell him. He still didn’t believe that I had no interest in seeing him. After that I didn’t hear anything else from him. I moved away. My mom has remained in the same condo for many years and her contact info never changed, yet we never heard from him.

A month and a half ago my mom gave Melissa a photo album that contained some photos of my dad. I guess it also had some documents with his social security number. Melissa was curious and tried to find him on Facebook. When she didn’t have any luck she continued her search, and eventually discovered that he had died in 2009. It was hard to really be sure without contacting some public officials, but I managed to find the woman he had remarried on Facebook. She had the photo above as her profile photo (pictured above), and her marital status is listed as widowed. So it’s confirmed. He was only 56. I haven’t contacted her or dug deeper. I’m curious to know how he died. I’m not sure how to feel about it. I’m not sad per se because I didn’t grow up feeling like I really had a father, so you can’t lose what you never had. It’s still a surreal feeling to think of how different your life could have been had one person not made the decisions that they did. It’s also strange that we weren’t at least informed of his passing. Not sure what to think about that.

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