How my dad died almost 30 years ago (which totally explains the zombie walk he’s got going now)

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I don’t tell this story all that often because, honestly, it’s pretty old and I don’t think it’s THAT funny. But my mom and my sister love it. It’s one of Christine’s go-to stories. In fact, if you’ve known my sister for more than 45 minutes and she hasn’t told you this story yet, she doesn’t like you much. Sorry. I don’t mean to be blunt about it, but she’s just not that into you. Better you hear it from me here on my blog than somewhere out on the street though, right?

Anyway, the story takes place my freshman year in college. That puts us somewhere back in the late fall of 1985. Maybe the winter of 1986? Somewhere in there. There was snow on the ground, that’s all I remember. That part’s important. Reagan was into his second term, The Cosby Show was well into its second season and a little group called Wham! had us all waking them up before we went-went.

I was in my dorm room (Tommy 341) and got a phone call. (Back in those days, each dorm room came equipped with a telephone. They don’t bother doing that anymore. And each of those phones came equipped with a great big curly cord that would stretch to any corner of the dorm room or, if your roommate was in the room and you wanted some quiet or privacy, out into the hall.)

The phone call was from Christine. She would have been 12 or 13 at the time. She was clearly upset, bordering on hysterical, so I took the phone out into the hallway to try and interpret her nonsensical rantings.

C:   “Greg? Something bad happened. Daddy died.”

That one rocked me a little bit. I reeled and leaned back against the wall. I must have looked pretty bad because a passing friend looked concerned and asked if I was alright. “My dad died,” I mouthed absently as I struggled to keep the hallway from spinning and continued to try and process what my sister was saying. She went on.

C: “Mom hit him with the car.”

Oh, that’s terrible, I remember thinking. Poor Mom and the guilt she’s going to go through. (Assuming it was accidental. I’m just saying. Really, would a jury of her peers have convicted her?) Meanwhile word of my situation had started spreading like wildfire down the hallway. Conversations stopped. Concerned faces peeked out of doorways. The only sounds were a few nervous whispers and the mournful wailing that continued to stream from the phone.

C: “She was backing out of the garage and she didn’t see him behind the car.”

It struck me at that point that she couldn’t have been going THAT fast. She must have just clipped him good. Who knows. These things happen, you know.

C: “She hit him and then she saw him in her mirror. He hopped two or three times and then just fell down and died.”

Holy shit, what a grizzly scene that must have been! This is terrible. By this point I had slumped down to the floor.

C: “We put him in the freezer. We’re going to wait till springtime to bury him.”

Wait. What?

It wasn’t until that point that an important question finally occurred to me. Why was this information coming to me from my 12-year-old sister?

G: “What the hell?! Christine, put Mom on the phone.”

It’s probably worth noting here that, at the time, my family had (key word there, “had”) a white cat. His given name was Dinsdale. But since, like many cats, he lacked willpower and impulse control, he was a rather heavy cat and earned the nickname Fatty. (Which – see where I’m going with this? – sounds a lot like “Daddy” when it’s being bawled across a long-distance phone line. And these were real phone lines back then. We weren’t even fiber optic in 1985. This was just mournful vibrations traveling across 1,500 miles of copper wire.)

What my mother was able to explain to me calmly was that someone had let the cat out and she had hit the poor thing with her car. She felt terrible about it, but Christine really wasn’t handling it very well (clearly) and insisted that she needed to call me and let me know the news.

The end. (I don’t have a neat way to wrap this one up. I’m out of practice. I haven’t been blogging in awhile.)

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