Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Death Of My Father and Taking The Blame.

The Death Of My Father and Taking The Blame.

When my father passed away, I was lost. The finality of his passing was something that I couldn't quite fathom. It's as if I expected that something would happen to change what I was experiencing, and somehow he would be back in my life as if nothing had happened. It's hard to accept that a person who is so much a part of you, will never be again. For a youngster, it's the height of denial. To begin with, it's incomprehensible. But I remember clearly that morning that my mother had gone to the hospital to be with my dad and I decided that I would go to the hospital myself. The hospital was very close to where we lived and in no time I was there. I arrived to find my mother crying and when she saw me, she grabbed me and held me tight as she said, "Wallace, your daddy is dead, kiss your daddy goodby." In my minds eye, I can see him just as plain as if he were before me right now, lying on the bed, his eyes closed, and very still. The main thing I noticed was that he wasn't breathing. He just laid there, still. I touched him and felt his warmth. He had just died before I came into the room. I bent over and kissed him as my mother had told me to do. Getting no response from him, it was then that the reality of it hit me, and I knew he was gone.

That wasn't my first experience with someone who had passed on, but the previous occasion was back in Havana, Cuba with the passing of my grandmother, and although I loved her dearly, my loss didn't compare to the passing of my father. My father dearly loved all three of us, but for some reason, I've always felt that I was special to him, which I now understand is not uncommon thinking. For a long while, my dad not being around just didn't fit in. We take people for granted, never giving thought to the possibility of their not being around. He was always there when I needed him, and to accept the fact that his love and counseling would no longer be available to me was just something that I couldn't accept. I was in total denial, and it affected me to the core of my being.

Things would flash through my mind about him. I recall, as a child while living in Cuba, he would depart our home and I would follow him to the front yard. There I would look at him as he walked to the refinery grounds and to work. I would yell at him "Bye Daddy" "Bye Daddy" and he would turn around every time and yell back "Bye Son" I don't know how many times I would yell at him saying my good byes and he always turned and called back to me. This would go on till he was just a small dot in the distance and could no longer hear me. This was a ritual that took place every morning and I can see it plainly now as if it happened yesterday. Another thing that stands out in my memory of him was something of a ritual in the home. I was always getting into his lap, especially when he was trying to read his paper. Although he had hair on the sides and on the back of his head, he was somewhat bald on the top of his head. I also remember that he had very large veins on his scalp which fascinated me. I would run my index finger along the veins which were so prominent on his bald head pushing the blood along with my finger, and it would be like I was in a car on a road which was weaving back and forth. For some reason, I got great pleasure doing that and would giggle at the fun of it. I know I was a bother to him, as he tried to read his paper, but not once did he ever complain. He really was a patient man.

It's funny how you recall certain things. When it begin to sink in that my dad was really gone and would never return, I started to wonder to what degree I was responsible for his not being there. As a grown adult, I now know that children quite often blame themselves for the loss of a father or mother. I was no different at the time. I would recall, that my father had a saying "You kids are going to be the death of me yet." This statement was an aside to some activity his kids were up to which he didn't approve of, and it was said due to something I had done on more than one occasion. It just goes to show you how important little things can add up to. It's natural as I said, for a youngster to try to figure out if the death of a parent was in any way something he might be responsible for. Those words of his came ringing back to me at that time, and it bothered me something awful. I just knew that I had something to do with his death and was somehow responsible for it. It was very difficult dealing with that guilt, and I am sure that it affected me at the time in ways emotional. Those days were very difficult for me, and as I said before, I really don't know how I would have made it had it not been for Mr. Duggan, the kind gentleman who looked after the family, Ms. Smith, my home room teacher, and Ms. Norris, who was my music teacher. There were many more, but they stick out prominently right now, as the people who most were responsible for my transition as a young juvenile into the stark world of reality. They helped me grow up fast. I began to see my world the way it really was. The year 1935 was a rough year not only for me, but for countless others. I saw I was living in a world capable of boundless abundance, and yet poverty surrounded us all. The depression was hitting us hard.

Wallace A. Johnson MBA
Apollo Project Test Pilot 1964

Commander  Spaceship DEWAJ
Senior Navigator Test Pilot


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