My father told me he never wanted to grow old. I was always so confused when he would say this to me, which was often btw. He didn’t want grey hair, even though he was already rocking the salt and pepper look in his 40s. He didn’t want wrinkles or use a walker, or even worse to have someone clean up after him. He didn’t want to feel helpless. Those were his exact words to me at 9, 10, 11 and up until the day he died, exactly seven days after my 14th birthday.
I remember the very last conversation I had with my dad, aka George. He called me on my birthday, told me he was sorry that he couldn’t send a gift, and that he loved me and would miss me. I asked him why he would miss me when I would see him the very next week. He just said I love you with a crackling in his voice and hung up.
He was calling me to say goodbye. He knew he was about to end his life. All I knew is that I adored him. Even though he would often miss picking me up on weekends, leaving me to wait on the curb with my blue suitcase in tow, tears streaming down my face.
Didn’t matter, he was my world.
When we were together, we were totally together, we were one. He loved watching baseball with me, the Pirates were his favorite team. He would plop himself down in front of his huge TV (which he won by being the top car salesman) eat sunflower seeds, and play electronic backgammon while smoking a corncob pipe or cigar. Sometimes in between commercials he would strum on his gold-plated banjo that was engraved with his full name George Anise Atiyeh. “Mr. Sandman” was my favorite song. In the evenings we would watch The Magnificent Seven almost every time I was with him. I’d wake up to Elvis or Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons playing while he cooked me breakfast—or sometimes scooped it, since it was a bowl full of yum as he would call it…it was ice cream…at 8am.
I still remember the color of the floor pillow he laid against whenever we watched baseball or movies together. It was grey and it smelled like him. That smell stays with me to this day, a mixture of tobacco and Old Spice. Axe doesn’t hold a candle to Old Spice.
Sometimes we would hang out in the garage, and it was always meticulous. He had a thing for collecting wheat pennies, stamps, and corvettes, and his garage housed all the above. He was a super classy man and an even more awesome dad…when he showed up and was fully present. His “pull my finger” got me every time.
In the end he was in trouble with some people from a casino. I’m not sure what the full story was other than that he was a high roller, he owed a lot of money, and he knew they were coming for him. So he took his life before they could take him, at least that is what I was told.
I went to his Huntington Beach apartment several days after his death, after they cleaned it up. The holes were still in the wall, some small blood splatters on the carpet, his last cigarette next to a single red rose in an ash tray. Sounds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, right? It kind of was. Some family members to this day say he was murdered. It doesn’t matter, he was going to leave the planet soon either way, this I know to be true. There was no way out for him. Whether he chose a permanent solution for a temporary problem or it was chosen for him, my world was forever changed, overnight.
I remember family members were taking items. All I wanted was the TV that we watched baseball on together, the ashtray with his last cigarette and the rose, and oh yes, also the grey pillow. His backgammon game was nowhere to be found. I think someone claimed it prior to my arrival.
My father had his faults. He was not a good man to many, but to a few he was their world. His jokes, his smile, laughter and sway…they will always stay with me and bring me nothing but kind and warm memories.
Now that I am becoming a glamma and I have no problem whatsoever aging and getting grey hair (hair color appointments every 4 weeks save the day!) I want to pull out the parts from the time I had with my dad who I loved so dearly and deeply. All the memories we shared I want carry into my glammaness. I want to be present and create traditions, memories, and moments that I will leave with my grandchildren when I leave the planet (in 45+ years). Will it be cleaning wheat pennies and organizing them, waxing a corvette, blasting Elvis Presley, and talking about Yul Brenner or Charles Bronson? Maybe. The important thing is that I am present and that I create genuine, loving moments and memories with my grandbabies.
After all, that is all I can leave them with, just as that is all my father left with me.
Miss you dad.
Your Starr…aka Lolli