Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Time to say Goodbye...

It was early on Friday October 4th when I saw a random number from Rifle, CO calling me. I usually don't pick up calls from numbers I don't recognize so I let it go to voicemail. The call was from a man in Rifle, Co regarding my father, and needed me to call him back asap. I knew it wasnt good. I was right. The man was the coroner in Rifle, CO and they had found my father the day before in his trailer. He had been dead quite awhile (they believe around the 20th of September) and after a man from his ward had called welfare services to check on him, they found him dead in his bed...obviously in quite a disgusting state since he was decomposed about two weeks.

It wasn't much of shock, sad to say. We, as in me and my siblings, always talked about how he would probably die alone, and be dead for awhile before he was found since he didn't keep in contact with anybody, lived alone, worked alone from his home, and didn't have many local friends. It was a sad prediction, but it's exactly how it happened.  I had the awful responsibility of calling all my siblings and letting them know.

It was weird. It wasn't as emotional as my mom's death. It was complex. My father hadn't been a "dad" in many many years, and out relationship was more of cordial strangers than father/daughter or even distant relatives. He was rarely on my mind, and I have no idea how often (if ever) he thought of me. Some of my siblings had a better (although not much) relationship with him, but my relationship with him had always been strained (to say the least). In fact my last interaction with him was a year and half ago when he came to Utah for a couple days. We had gone to a BYU soccer game, and then out to dinner. Half way through dinner he got mad at me because Jared, while on a trip to DC with Carson, didn't take him to see the home he lived in when he was a baby. Seriously....dad got mad at ME for this. It was crazy. Kim, Aaron, and I thought he was kidding at first...but nope. Somehow this was my fault. And that's the story of our relationship. Some how I was always in trouble. So of course our last moments together were that of awkwardness and contention. It was fitting.

I don't why my father was the way he was, what life choices led him to man he had become, and what (if anything) could have happened to change him..us..but that's the way it was. I had come to terms with it a long time ago. I chose to move on, instead of sitting around hoping for the father that I saw others have. I think it made me stronger, in some ways, and I guess a little damaged in others. But it is what it is. Or was.
When someone with who you have a complicated relationship dies, it's hard to put into words how you feel. I guess I mourn the loss of the "idea" of a dad. I mourn his life, that it wasn't what it should have been. And i'm sad that it ended that way.

Anyway, Kim and I got together that morning to figure out our next steps. We had no clue about his life, his business, his financial status, his trailer home. Nothing. we knew nothing about his life. So we headed to Rifle, CO (about 5 hrs away) to assess the situation. We met with the funeral home and got things figured out for his cremation. But even that was hard as we didnt know some pertinent information about him. Did he graduate from college? What was his mother's maiden name? Luckily, I had some help from Minnesota Julie.  It's just so crazy to know so much information about my mother (sometimes too much information) and then know so little about my father. The coroner explained to us that we couldnt go into his home until a professional cleaning crew had been in there to dispose of the biohazardous materials in the home. Yep, they had to get rid of the bed, and apparently his "remains" had seeped through the mattresses and into the sub flooring, so all that would have to be removed as well. Luckily, we could bill his home owners insurance for it (but we worried that he didn't have any...he wasn't good with paying bills) since it would be about 10,000$.  There wasn't much more we could do until the cleaners went into the place so we headed home.
heading to Rifle.
that next week, Jared and Lindsay drove down to Utah and we all headed over to Rifle to do what we could. Our main goal was to just see if we could recoup our financial losses. That was it.

We knew his house would still smell and be disgusting, we knew that his financial status was probably bad, and we knew that he was kind of hoarder so there was going to be lots of crap to get through....we had no idea how bad it was!!  Even with fans, air freshener, masks, and lysol spray the smell of rotting body just cut through right to your nose. It was crazy. and the amount of papers, business, cards, photos, books, etc that he had was insane!! Our first step was to find as much relevant paperwork as we could to see what his debt to asset ratio was to see how invested we were gonna get in the process of his home, business, etc. we then threw away as much crap as we could especially anything personal that we weren;t gonna keep. He had so much stuff!! Along with his home, he had a shed, and whole storage unit just full of stuff. It was disgusting and horrific. It made me want to go home and get rid of everything I don't use on a daily basis. It quickly became apparent that his debts wayyy outweighed any money he had and we didn't want to do anything to get ourselves involved in that. Our goal at that point became to not worry about selling his home, his business, his car, etc...but just having a quick yard sale and getting rid of any furniture we could to try and make some quick and easy money that would pay for his death. I posted a bunch of stuff on facebook and craigslist and we sold most of the stuff and made a good chunk of money.

the death room

this was just one day's worth of crap

the storage shed!


90$ in change we found in tins...what was he saving up for?

DONE! and ready to get home

after exactly 2 full, exhausting days in Rifle we packed my van with photos, relevant paperwork, and old model cars (that Jared would sell on ebay for some more cash).  We were so tired, but we got through it. We tried our best to make it fun and enjoyable, and I think considering the situation, we did a dang good job. It was A LOT of work.
Our facebook status updates from that weekend:

The words "Biohazard materials" have taken on a whole new meaning for me.

No one in Rifle, CO seems happy to live here - at least that's the impression I got at the Burger King.

My dad had a current life insurance policy on me but not himself. I feel like he did that wrong.

If you need a brochure to any tourist attraction in the world my dad has at least 3 copies of each.

Been cleaning this disgusting house all day but we're still the hottest people in this entire town.

My dad's water company services the hotel we're staying at. Hope they don't need to replace their filters. **SPOILER ALERT** they do

It's a sad day when siblings fight over who gets the 5 boxes of old Hot Rod magazines. These are the things that tear families apart.

You can absolutely tell how depressed a town is by the amount of camouflage everyone wears.

These two Mexican ladies have watched me walk in and out of this trailer all week wearing a biohazard mask and rubber gloves. They're probably like "¡El Diablo!"

I smell like death...literally. Where was the hazmat suit when I needed it?!

A family who handles biohazard materials together stays together!

No amount of air freshener is gonna make tomorrow tolerable.#seepingbiohazardmaterials

Sorry Scentsy, but Bath and Body works has the monopoly on "death smell eraser" products #itslikegold

My dad could have LITERALLY wallpapered an entire bedroom with the amount of business cards he had collected. Sidenote: none of those cards were for an accountant or lawyer

I'm so thankful that I have my siblings, we are a tight knit group. And it's at times like these that that becomes very apparent and very comforting. We have been through a lot...A LOT in our lives, and I think it has all led up to this. To this time in our young-ish lives when we would be without parents. on our own. All we have is each other, but I think we will be okay. We are strong.

We opted out of having a formal "funeral" for my father and instead are heading out to Minnesota to get together with family out there. We haven't been to visit since 1998, and I am excited to see everyone. My dad's two older sisters still live out there (both their spouses have since died), and most of my cousins on the Bates side still live out there as well. It'll be fun to get together and have some time with them. We are bringing my father's ashes out there and his sisters can do what they want with them. (I think they want to bury him by his mother and father in Detroit Lakes).

This whole thing has been so crazy. While my mom's death was a more emotional and life changing (and continues to be), my dad's death has been more stressful but also came with a sense of closure.

My siblings collected a bunch of pictures of him through his years and made this little video to view with the Minnesota family. So check it out.


Lizzie Ann said...

Wow, that's so crazy, Angie. Sorry to hear that you had to go through all of that. Glad you could at least enjoy being together as siblings. Thinking of you.

Kacey Nielsen said...


Seriously, wow.

You guys are the toughest.

melanie said...

I want to comment on so many of those pictures! The little kid ones of your dad, the rollerblades, ALL the ones with your mom. So fun to see a young Tammy.

Love you Angie!

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Oh man. What a post. You nailed it, describing the death of a parent who lost their connection to you. Made my heart sad for your heart.

Man. I'm sorry, Angie. I'm amazed at how you took care of the situation.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

I forgot to comment on the video. That is great. I hope you're still my friend when I die and put one together for me.

David Earl said...

This is Peggy - What a beautiful post! Your honesty was touching and also a tribute to your dad. I remember the old Jim and he was a great guy which is evidenced by the four outstanding beings he co-created! Love the slide show. Priceless. Thanks for sharing! Love you guys!!

camery said...

I had no idea that is how it all happened at the end. not ok. not at all. i'm so glad you all have each other and were able to do this really hard thing, together. I don't know what demons he was battling, but missing out on "being" your dad was one tremendous loss for him. love you, friend.

Colleen said...

I am sorry you had to face all this, it really sounds like a nightmare, but so glad you had your best friends and siblings to face it with you. I love what camery said, and I completely agree, what a loss to have not known you four wonderful people better and your amazing kids.

Samantha said...

Thank you so much for this post Angie. I was really saddened to hear about Jim's passing, and I couldn't stop thinking about what conflicting emotions you and your siblings must have had. You guys are so strong and I'm sorry you had to do that.

Kim said...

I am just barely seeing this post. Thanks for putting in to words what I can't. Love you!

A Bug's Life said...

Your post describes someone that is so different than what the slideshow captures. The video shows the Jim that wanted to be all those things. And I loved to see that! It was there, somewhere. I mourned the loss of what could have been for you guys and thought of all the conflicting emotions it would be when I heard the news and I'm so sorry. You guys are amazing and strong and I'm so glad you guys have each other. Love you, Daishan