I keep hearing on the December 7th, the day that lives in Infamy!
Well, yes, it is but not for the same reasons.
December 7th, 1980 the Passing of one Arthur Eugene Hunter... my father.
I was just daddy's little girl.
It's not fair. :(
One minute he was here it seemed, and then he was gone.
His birthday falls near Thanksgiving every year and sometimes it falls on. So that too can be very hard. It used to be gruesome for our family to deal with those days so close together. no one wanted to talk. No one wanted to mention it. There was this still silence in the air. It was like fog, thick almost like smog even. I hated how hard it was. As the years went on it seemed to get easier and as I got older I guess I forgot a little bit more and more and was able to pass on with my life.
The year he passed the kids in my 5th grade class at United wanted to do something Special for him. he was a Janitor at the school at that time. He had been a bus driver and many other jobs but at this time he was a janitor. I guess I should have been ashamed that my dad was a janitor and maybe as I got older I would have been, but as a 5th grader I thought it was cool and that he was amazing.
In town and at school everyone loved him and knew him as Mr. Hunter. I do not know how the topic got on that it was his birthday. Perhaps I said or the teacher knew but we all made cards for him that day and I got the special honor of taking the cards to him at the end of the day.
He came to the class and I got to walk up to the front of the class and hand them to him. He was a gruff man and former Marine so smiling was not the things you saw a lot, but when you did see that, you knew you had pleased him. the teacher had announced that we knew it was his birthday and we had a special treat. I handed him the cards and a beaming smile swept across his face. It made me so proud!
He took the cards in his hands, leaned down to me and said thank you, ruffled my hair and then laughed a bellowing laugh. I hollered at him and he laughed some more! I went back to my seat and he looked through the cards briefly and said thank you to the class and they all said YOUR WELCOME in unison and then he left.
Later than night at home he said on the plastic couch in the front room and opened and closed and poured over each card. It really meant a lot to him. He admired each one and made special mention about mine and some of my closest friends that came around the house. It was his 42nd birthday. That was November 26th, 1980...
The morning of December 7th was not like any other. Usually people say "it was like every other day" but this was NOT. I woke early and smelled Grandma cooking her homemade bread and I thought I smelled her cooking fry bread. when she had left over dough she would flatten it out and then throw it in some oil to cook it up and then we would eat it with jams or jellies. It was 5am and I never needed to be up that early. I bound down the stairs and yep that is exactly what she was doing. Dad and grandpa were sitting around the table drinking coffee eating fry bread. I asked for some and grandma made me some and I sat near dad (of course being daddy's little girl) because I always wanted to be near him.
He asked me if I wanted to go to school with him instead of waiting for the bus. Also not normal. I jumped at the chance for that. He told me to finish my bread and get ready so we could go. I did just that and we headed off together.I don't remember what car he had that day nor do I remember the ride there. I remember getting there and once we were there we went into this little room where there were these red pipes all around and a table and other Janitors and maintenance men sitting around drinking coffee and hanging out.
He put his stuff away, he introduced me to a few guys and then we did a few things. He introduced me to the principal and the secretary when we went into their office to clean up and then finished a few errands. Time flew by fast and next thing I knew the school buses were coming in and I had to go to class. He told me to take the bus home, and I went to class. I am not even sure if we told each other goodbye.
I went about my day and then got on the school bus as told. Before the bus started moving a lady got on the bus and announced my name. I got up and went to her and she told the driver to go on without me. I was wondering how I was getting home if the bus went on without me. As we were walking away from the bus and the bus pulled away she introduced herself as the secretary for the high school and that there had a been a terrible accident and my dad was hurt and at the hospital.
I started arguing with her and telling her she didn't know what she was talking about because my dad was fine I saw him today we went to school together and he told me to ride the bus home. She then said my dad Art Hunter had a bad fall and was hurt and she was going to take me home and my family would explain everything. At that point I started to cry. It didn't make sense. She said the right name but I just saw him this morning. But hold on...did dad know? What was that thing a few weeks back when mom and dad were talking and he said "If something were to ever happen to me I want you to go live with your mom"...what the heck? Do people know when something is going to happen to them? I don't understand...I just started sobbing in this poor lady's car.
We got to the farm and my grandma came out and greeted me and the lady and I stopped crying. I don't know why. I saw her and as we pulled up I just stopped like you turned off the faucet. Grandmas put her arm around me and we walked inside and I went upstairs and didn't talk to anyone. A few hours later I hear my mother's voice and she came upstairs and tried to tell me what happened. I told her why it didn't make sense to me about how I went to school with dad and she kept trying to explain it to me. Bonnie and Lynn were upstairs getting their coats on and said they were going to the hospital. I asked if I could go and everyone said no. They all said I was too young that I would not understand. Of course though, then and even now,(yes at my age) I am still told I would not understand)
Dec 10th, 1980...he passed away. His funeral everyone said I was cold, unfeeling. I was in shock! I was the last one in the family I thought to see him. Later in life I found out that one of the girls or both had seen him in the high school that day. It just did not register in my head what was happening. It did not seem real. Counselors felt that perhaps if I had gotten to see him in the hospital that it would have made more sense to me, but they tried to protect me too much and it made things worse. I needed the closure and I never got it.
Thanksgiving 1983...I am lying on my bed scrap booking... I found an old frame with a picture of Art, my dad in it. I no more than find it and my mom walks in the door to tell me dinner is almost ready. Mind you we have guests in the other room and this year mom has made a feast. I burst out in tears and say to her..."He really is dead isn't he?" My mother in her best way to comfort me says boldly "He has been dead for 3 years Patricia Ann. I guess I didn't realize you hadn't accepted that. Dinner's almost ready." Gotta love her. But in her defense, I was very private and very shy for years until I was about 16 years old or so. Not until my friend E. and his group of friends did I really start opening up and after much modeling etc.
Mom put me in therapy after that comment though, because she learned I had been carrying this belief that he was not dead, that I thought he was coming back, or that he was on a mission, or something.
His death and the time around his death and birthday is always hard on me. As I said, I have learned to muster though it. I am not that person anymore. I know he is dead. I miss him. I had Lew in my life and he was the only Father I ever knew. I miss Art though. I miss being able to share my life with Art. I am a woman who is not fond of the I DONT KNOWS and the WONDERMENT and that hmmm I wonder what it would have been like had dad lived, theory lingers in my mind at times.
but I go back and remember what one counselor told me when I shared in my senior year how sad I was that Art was not around to see me go to Prom and be a part of my life that I felt he was missing out...she said "Your Real father has the best seat in the house and can always watch over you, always help guide you, always be with you, and can hold your hand. He is in your car when you drive, at your recitals when you dance, he will be with you when you most need him, and you know he always loves you because he is always in your heart."