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It’s five in the morning on January 13, 1986. The telephone’s ringing. It’s not unusual as Earl is on-call as a hospital chaplain. After answering it, he says, "Bert, it’s your step-mother." "What does she want?" I grumble as I make my way to the phone. No one has my number except Bill so I’m mad at him too.
"How’d you get my number?" Bill. Just as I thought. "What do you want?" "Your dad died at three this morning," she says. "What did you do to him?" I accuse. "He had a heart attack." Apparently, she awoke with him thrashing in bed. She got Kathy (12) up and had her stay with him while she called an ambulance.
Last night I told Earl that I was going to write Dad and tell him about us. Oh, well.
I don't want to go to the funeral but Earl is insistent. Kari’ here so I call Bill and take her home. Later, I think about taking her with us so I call Bill back. He’s rude but let’s me pick her up. It’s always a game with him.
It takes nine hours to drive to ElDorado, AR. We stop at the hotel where Grandma and Grandpa Wiley are staying. Grandpa is in bed and looks so little and weak. We talk about tomorrow and Kari kisses the Great Grandpa she’s never seen before. We go to Grace’s house where we spend the night. Grace is Mary's step-mother and very gracious in the situation.
Before the funeral, as we gather at a small Baptist Church in Spearsville, LA, we wander back and forth from the pews to the open casket. Every time I look at his cold, dead body I get angrier. When Kari see’s him she thinks it’s the grandpa she saw last night. "Oh, my?" "No, come here. This is your Great-Grandpa, who you saw last night." She climbs into his lap and talks to him.
The service begins. It’s slow and boring. This poor pastor. Preaching a service for a man he never met and knows nothing about. Yes, I’m crying. A lot. All I can think about are the sexual assaults and how he hurt me so deeply. He was my Daddy! I want him alive. I want to shake him and slap him and tell him how much he hurt me. I hate him.
A meal is being served after the funeral so we decide to eat. Kari finishes and goes to play with other small children. It’s time to go and I can’t find her. "Where’s Dennis?" I’m hysterical. No one’s seen her. We see Dennis coming out of the woods. "Where is she?" I scream. He denies everything.
Here she is. She was playing in the nursery with Kathy. I hold on silently to my anger. I’m afraid I’ll lose myself if I let it go.
We’re loading up to go home when Mary asks me why I haven't talked to Dad or accepted their mail in two years. I say, "He's dead and it doesn't matter." She places a twenty dollar bill in my hand "to buy something for Kari." We figure that will just about pay for our gas.
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