Thursday, November 26, 2009

Losing a Father

Twenty-four years ago today my life changed forever.

It was a foggy Tuesday morning the week of Thanksgiving and my father and I were hardly speaking as he had disciplined me recently.

I didn't cotton to his parental discipline of me as I was in a rebellious punky/bratty stage and as we had breakfast together we hardly spoke that morning.

I had school on my mind and he had two jobs that day that no doubt wore heavily on his mind.

He had one small one up in the hills above Rocky Canyon Road above Rocky Canyon Feed Store and Heilman Salvage and then a big one at the trailer park adjacent to the truck stop next to US101 off of the Wildhorse Rd. exit just south of King City.

The latter would one be a big and dangerous job up on a tower.
He installed TV antennas for those who were not able to or did not want to get cable and did not want to or were not able to afford to get satellite which was a rich man's thing in those days as the dishes were HUGE and expensive.

There were a lot of people in that category and he had only one competitor on the Central Coast and that guy was lousy so Dad did real well and was a master at customer service and satisfaction not to mention a technical whiz at what he did.

Before this bigger job he had the small test job in the hills east of Atascadero at one Karl (or Carl) Webber's residence. He was going to put up a 30' test antenna to see if there was even enough signal to justify going the TV antenna route. He was to test different spots with the first one being at the upper driveway entrance to the residence. My dad assembled three 10' sections and the test antenna at the top end and was going to walk this larger pole up and then strap it to the side of his vehicle with brackets and then rotate it around and test for signal strength. He began to walk the pole up into an upright position after assembling it on the ground and Mr. Weber used his foot to keep the pole from sliding along the ground as my dad raised it.

As I stated before it was one of those typically pee-soup foggy mornings in Atascadero when it has been cold like the one the morning of the Rainwater Murders. Due to the thick fog and Dad's lack of knowledge about the immediate surroundings there and perhaps his momentary lapse of caution in checking carefully that there was nothing above him as well as Mr. Weber's failure to notify dad that there were indeed power lines above him dad began to walk this pole with an attached antenna at the end up into an upright position right into live 12,000 volt power lines.

All morning I had felt sick to my stomach. It was not like I was physically ill but like I was nervous before a game or practice, but so much worse that it was nearly debilitating; my soul was very troubled. I mentioned to teammate Chad Davis that I might not show up for freshman basketball practice which was then coached by now Paso Robles Bearcats head football coach Rich Shimpke.

I was in Mr. Larsen's Spanish 1A class (with Kenny McNamara) and it was either 6th period right after lunch or maybe 7th period and a student office attendant brought a note into class and gave it to Mr. Larsen who read it and then told me I was requested in the office and that I was to bring my books with me. This seemed slightly irregular and odd, but I did not yet feel alarmed per se.

When I got to the office (which at that time was still in the old admin building) I was met by Pam Meyer (who reminded most of us at the time of that Mrs. Pool character on television and in movies at the time) who must have told me mom was going to pick me up for some reason as that is the only thing that makes sense in the context of how things played out and what I remember and how I remember it. In any case whatever I was told didn't overly alarm me even though it alarmed me a bit.

As I waited in the main hall there where there was a view out the doors facing to the east where I could see what was coming up the hill Mrs. Meyer small talked with me in a manner that when I think back on it was nervous chatter to fill the air while we solemnly waited for what was about to arrive.

As we talked I noticed an Atascadero Police unit heading up the hill and the very moment I saw it I knew in my heart that it was coming for me and that something very serious was going on. Not that I was in trouble but that something bad had happened. The minute that happened I interrupted Mrs. Meyer mid-sentence and told her this police car was for me and that I had to go and I grabbed my stuff and went out the door and met the police car. When it pulled up and stopped I got in the backseat and found my younger brother already there in the front seat. I asked Officer Watton (perhaps he was a sergeant) what was going on and he said "Your father has been in an accident." I asked how he was and he was evasive and said my mom would tell us what was going on which I found less ominous than frustrating at the time.

When we got onto our street and came upon our house I saw mom out in front looking at us with a face I had never seen before and will never forget. It's hard to describe it but certainly it was ashen and yet dark and troubled and serious beyond the pale. I am still haunted by it. When I hurriedly got out mom immediately told us "Dad is dead." I felt cut to the heart and stunned. It was like being punched in the face but it felt like the impact hit my entire body and I said aloud "No!" followed by sentiments I remember but whose exact wording I cannot, but essentially the typical denial and despair and anguish.

By this time mom had already called the Noyes and McGee sides of our family and the sharks were on their way to the feeding. It was during this waiting period for the family to show up that I walked down the street to my then best friend Jon Marsh's house and told him what had happened and he was really shook up by it as you might imagine. Then I returned home and much of the rest of the experience was a blur.

What happened with Dad is that as he got the antenna on the pole into the near-vertical position he noticed the power lines at the last second and yelled "Oh my God!" and then the antenna or pole came into direct or indirect contact (the electricity can arc one inch per 1,000 volts so arcing up to one foot could have occurred in this case) with a 12,000 volt line or lines and they severed and fell on dad and wrapped around him almost like an electromagnet. A primary entry path for the current entered his head through his glasses and primarily exited out his left hip leaving some rather gruesome trauma there. Mr. Webber's foot was in contact with the base of the pole and he was shocked and thrown some distance away and was knocked unconscious briefly. When he awoke nobody was around and dad was still wrapped up in the lines. Mr. Webber received some damage to his heart and an quarter-sized exit wound on the bottom of either or both feet.

He struggled back to his house and told his wife to call 911. When the Atascadero Fire Department paramedics arrived they beat P.G.&E. and couldn't wait for the power to be disconnected so they untangled Dad using a broomstick. He was in full cardiac arrest and was taken by ambulance to Twin Cities Hospital where he was declared dead. They worked on him the entire drive there and at the hospital as well.

Mom watched the ambulance on the way to the scene as it went by on Curbaril Ave. and she lived on Cortez Ave. and she saw the ambulance somberly coming back by on the way to the freeway with dad in it and got a bad feeling but didn't connect it with dad. Dad was supposed to have lunch with her after the Webber job before he went up to King City for the bigger job. He never showed. She was concerned as that was not like him to not show up as planned AND not call to explain. Then when a police car pulled up and parked she knew there was some sort of trouble, obviously. Officer Watton asked her what type of vehicle her husband drove and she told him a brown station wagon and then he told her what happened. She asked him to go get her kids as she was not in any condition to drive which he gladly did. He was very supportive and sensitive throughout the entire ordeal.

It's strange how the human mind and emotions function in the immediate aftermath of these sorts of things. An example of this can be found in my then-thought/fantasy I sometimes (but not too seriously) entertained in the days immediately following that there was some sort of "catch" about this and the government simply made it look like Dad had died so he could do something for them in his intelligence-gathering capacity at NSA as he was a former sigint (signal intelligence) gatherer. This was merely the wishful thinking of a heartbroken son.

Another example of this strange way of thinking/looking at things was when we went to visit Dad's body at Chapel Of Roses and I stayed in the room briefly after the rest of the family had left the room and just quietly and sadly looked down at Dad who looked very peaceful and I felt this strange urge to confirm what I had been told about him having a big wound on his left hip and so I reached into the coffin and felt his left hip area through his suit (one he had recently bought for a job interview down in Southern California) and felt the area quite swollen. I know it sounds crazy but here I was with my Dad and I hadn't been there for him in his hour of need (Dad had originally intended for me to help him with the King City job and so I would have gone with him to the first job, too, but he changed his mind almost at the last moment and probably because of the bad vibes in the air) and so I needed to be a part of the "event" in some way after the fact. Also, I think I needed to do that to kind of confirm in my own mind what everybody had said had happened as we all were still in the process of accepting what had happened and fighting off the urge to be in denial dad was really gone.

The family finally arrived in full force and the zoo/circus/carnival/freak show began in earnest (do I sound bitter still?) which is mostly all a blur to me now. The family was pretty worthless in that situation needless to say with the exception of my mom and her mom (my maternal grandmother who was my favorite grandparent and the one I was the closest to).

Two days later on Thursday the 28th the seven of us (Mom, me, my brother, all four of my grandparents) went to Madonna Inn for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Dad's funeral was at Chapel of Roses the following day, Friday. We had wanted it at the grave site but it was raining and so it was rescheduled indoors. On the way to or from the funeral there was a beautiful rainbow over the hills to the east where Dad had died a few days earlier. I knew in my heart it meant something and was not a coincidence.

The next day we (mom and my brother and I) drove down to Pasadena to her parents place where we stayed or perhaps we slept at a motel, I remember not. In any case the McGee House was the place we hung out at during that time. That night we hooked up with one of mom's best friends who was my friend, too, Candy Smith. The four of us went out to dinner and a movie to get away from the rest of the family for a short time and we watched Rocky IV which had just come out. The part dealing with the character of Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers) being killed and the funeral and all that caused mom to have to leave the movie and step outside for a brief time as the theme was just too sensitive just several days removed from what happened with dad and the funeral only being the day before.

From the get-go following Dad's death I emotionally withdrew into a world of school and friends and sports and roll playing games and going to movies and listening to music and such. I did not deal with the emotions of losing Dad when I should have in the few years following his death. As a result it all hit me later in high school in my senior year and into my early 20's which was a very bad time as that is when I needed to go out into the world and do my thing. Consequently, it got me all sideways in life generally and along with drifting away from God I have ruined my life to this point. Only recently have I started to get my life back on track and try to regain my mojo.

A sad consequence of my personal failure is that this hurt my family at the time it needed me most as I as the eldest son/older brother was off doing my own thing and not attending to their emotional needs. What harm this did I do not know but it didn't help things for Mom or my brother. However, I do not accept blame for how my brother turned out nor do I accept the notion Dad's mother holds that Dad's death is why my brother turned out the way he did.
My brother was already starting to go in the direction he ultimately headed before Dad died but he went over to the Dark Side after Dad died. He made his own choices in life. He was and is who he is; we all are who we are no matter what happens. I was not a great brother and neither was I a bad brother, either. My brother even told me so himself several years ago and it is one of the few things we agree upon.

My Mom had no reason to stay in Atascadero as she never liked it and still doesn't, but she stayed so my brother and I could finish school here which was a tremendous personal sacrifice as her life and family she cared about and friends were centered in Southern California. She never dated and still doesn't to this day. She really loved Dad. I hope someday she meets another special man who turns out to be The One. She lost the first great love of her life who was "The One" before Dad came along (she never married her first great love of her life). Then with Dad she lost her second great love of her life.

Shortly before Dad's death mom bought him for his upcoming 39th birthday (11/01/85) a very nice telescope from a nice catalog to view Haley's Comet which was approaching at that time. There was a S.N.A.F.U. and the order would not be delivered until well after his birthday. Mom had to sadly call and cancel the order in the days that followed his death on November 26, 1985. When somebody dies so unexpectedly there are literally hundreds of these sorts of details that come up and must be dealt with no matter how painful.

Another odd and painful little footnote to this story is that shortly before Dad died he applied for a great job down in the Santa Clarita Valley and even bought a nice suit for the interview, which suit he ended up being buried in, sadly enough. Shortly after his death this firm attempted to contact Dad to inform him he had been accepted for the job and mom had to tell them he was now dead. As you might imagine that was very painful to us, especially to Mom who had to deal with them. The only bright spot in all this is that we didn't move down to Southern California and I didn't end up finishing my youth (and high school) down in that cesspool.

Not long after the accident Dad's parents and Mom and my brother and I dropped by the scene of the accident and knocked on Mr. Webber's door and he answered and reluctantly allowed us in but did not make us feel welcome. Dad's parents spearheaded the effort as they wanted answers about what happened as Mr. Webber was the only surivor of accident. He offered no sympathy nor kindness and even left his television up loud during our visit causing Grandpa to politely request he turn it down so we could hear what was being said.

On the eve of the one year anniversary of Dad's death a man knocked on our front door late in the day while I was at junior varsity football practice and served mom papers notifying her that Dad's estate was being sued by Mr. Webber (who was/is a wealthy man of some repute) who failed to warn Dad that there were power lines above him despite the fact this was on Mr. Webbers' property and he should have known this. We never thought to sue him, however, and never did counter sue. Dad's insurance covered the suit. Mom's lawyer wanted to sue this guy and felt we had a case and also wanted to sue P.G.&E. for cleaning up the site before it could be investigated and felt they were covering up the alleged fact that the power lines were sagging too low (there are rules about how far down they can sag) and that that was the cause of the accident (alleged he).

Mom rightly decided not to sue either. It was an honest mistake by Mr. Webber not to tell Dad about the power lines (Dad apparently didn't ask him if there were any hazards either) and so they both errored and nobody deserved to get sued and so we weren't going to go down to his level and sue him back. P.G.&E. did not do anything outrageously negligent. Dad's antenna mast was 30' long plus add an antenna to that and the power lines stretched straight across would have still been at 30' high themselves so it wouldn't have mattered if the lines were properly stretched or not, Dad was going to die that day. It was his time to go no matter what. The P.G.&E. work crews cleaning up the site was more likely nothing nefarious but simply cleaning up after an accident and repair job getting the powerlines Dad accidentally downed back up again as is their job to do. Occam's Razor says in essence the simplest explanation is nearly always the correct one and I and we feel it applied here. Even if not Dad was going to be a goner anyway and suing would not have brought him back or given us money we absolutely needed. More importantly it would have kept us from being able to move on about Dad by dredging everything back up again emotionally and hurt us more than it would hurt Webber or P.G.&E. We were emotionally very fragile at that time. Mom made the correct choice in this matter.

In the years that followed I have attempted to gain insight and revelation into why God took Dad away. For the longest time it made no sense to me why God took my dad away from me and from his wife and his other son. However, over the course of the years as I have attempted to piece back together what the hell happened with and to me I have come to realize that dad had drifted away from God in the years prior to his death. God warned him of this many times through a variety of incidents that he ignored but that looking back now were terribly significant.

Dad was a better man than I will ever be and I deserve to die more than he did which humbles and grounds me firmly. I have ignored many a time similar warnings as Dad received. Perhaps Dad was being held to a higher standard than I given that he was a husband and father unlike me. Perhaps it is that Dad never responded to what God was doing in his life whereas I am now, albeit belatedly. Whatever the case, all I know is that on this Thanksgiving Day (which ironically falls on the anniversary of Dad's death) I am thankful to be alive and to know what I know and feel what I feel and to have a loving Creator who has put up with so much of my shit and not taken me away as I would have done with me were I in His position. He loves me and has big things in store for me and has used what I have experienced to shape me into something He can now use for His purpose. I now look to the future with hope and humility and yes, thankfulness.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Random Musings of a Ramblin' Fool XXII

Eclectic Arcania is Back!

It was three months ago this date that we last posted on Eclectic Arcania. Much has happened since that time, most notably everything has changed with us. Now it's just me. This means things here will no longer be the same. However, I will strive to have her visit us with an occasional guest blog posting. In any case I hope our readers will return and hang out with us heading into the future. I will endeavor to make this blog better than ever and hope you all are satisfied.

Fini "Us"

My girlfriend and I are no longer a couple. Our breakup was as loving and right as any breakup in history.
We were great together for 2-1/2 years and grew so much during that time and had many wonderful times together.However, over time we realized we were not to spend the rest of our lives together and mutually agreed to part ways as dear friends.We could not have gotten through our breakup without the love and support of the other person. We continue to be the best of friends but are both still hurting a lot since we made it official August 26, 2009.

K&K Earthwerks Kaput (Sort Of)

I have been forced to pull out of all my shows and and restrict my business K&K Earthwerks to just an EBay presence. Show after show this year was either too quiet or was busy with visitors who were just looky-loo's and spent little or no money. This was the collective experience of most dealers I know. However, most dealers do it on the side and not full-time like me so this wiped me out.This Saturday I will be selling at Cliff Brewen's rockhound tailgater event open to the public.That event will be held from 8 AM to 2 PM at 6384 Monterey Road in San Miguel.I will be selling not only from my business inventory but from my personal collection as well.

I'm A Paso Roblan Now!

I am now living in Paso Robles having made the move from Atascadero this month. I still have about half my stuff at the old place but on the way home from work each evening I fill my pickup with another load of stuff so I am making good progress. I was stuck in a rut living in Atascadero and needed to leave as part of my starting over in life. I must say that as the years have passed I have grown more and more contemptuous of Atascadero and even before I realized I was moving to Paso I felt that was a cooler town and one that had its shit together unlike Atascabama/Atrashcadero/Mudhole as many folks variously call it.

Shows Out, Church In

Doing rock shows for a living makes going to church secondary as shows are basically weekend affairs just like church. I realize now doing shows is for me incompatible with my relationship with God at this point in my life and it is no coincidence that the show aspect of my business failed.Since closing down the show part of my business I have been church tramping in my area looking for a decent church that is the right fit for me.
Right now the top candidates for my church home are Paso Robles Bible Church and Faith Baptist Church in Atascadero.
All Work Is Honorable

Right now while I regain my financial footing and formulate a Plan B I am doing various oddjobs for friends and acquaintances. To date of have planted fruit trees, split wood, cleaned a house and painted both it and a duplex on the same property, helped somebody move their stuff, mowed lawns, helped build a concrete slab and put a shed on it, house sat and babysat dogs at said house, did a show in NorCal for a dealer who couldn't make it himself, helped another dealer set up and break down his booth at the Big Sur Jade Festival among other tasks I have done. If anybody reading this has need of me for some task please let me know privately and we'll work something out. Of coure, on the broader picture and longer haul I am seeking a steady, well-paying job which I fully trust the Almighty will provide when the time is right.