Monday, October 29, 2007

An Estranged Parent's Journey in Life & Death: Part I - Notification

We try our best to prepare ourselves for times like this, and yet when it happens we are often confused by its impact. On October 28th at approximately 10:30 p.m. Arthur Watkins was pronounced DOA after being transported to a local hospital in Alabama where he resided for several years. He had suffered a heart attack while driving home from Biloxi MS. Who was he? My estranged natural father.

He was born August 26, 1932 to Stanley & Mary Watkins and he had two siblings, Gene (his older brother) and Bobbie (his younger sister) all of which preceded him in death. He was a handsome man, 6'2" tall, thin build, with brown hair and blue eyes. He grew up in Roanoke Rapids, NC and would join the Marine Corps after his graduation from high school.

I am told, he had been married to a woman that did so with intentions to collect his combat pay should he not survive the war. Unfortunate for her, the military changed his orders and he never went on this tour of duty. Within two months the marriage was annulled. It wasn't long after that when he met my mother and they were married in August of 1953. They would have five children together, and after the divorce in 1975 their extended family would increase with the birth of eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. What a wonderfully large family.

The sad part is that Arthur Watkins would leave the area within 5 years of the divorce and remove himself for the most part from the lives of his five children and never enjoy his extended family. Though it seemed a blessing at times, there were moments for some of us when we wished he were the man we needed him to be, but he was who he was like it or not. So, how do you deal with the death of an immediate family member when they are estranged for more than 30 years of your life?

Related Posts: Part I - Notification, Part II - Reactions, Part III - Discovery, Part IV - A Full Military Honors Ceremony,
Part V - The Ceremony & Update from Biloxi, Part VI - Lessons Learned


Neena said...

That is heavy stuff - and for whatever it's worth, I am sorry for your loss.
There is always a grieving process whether you were estranged or not.

goldengoddess said...

Thank you, Neena! It's been an unusual process for sure and I am thankful that I was able to have had some positive interaction with him before he died. I often made the first move to contact him if too much time would pass, it always seemed to be the right thing to do. I'm glad I did. This year for the first time since I was nine years old I laughed with my father. It was also the first time he had ever given me a compliment. He said that I am "an intelligent and funny woman." It was good to hear, a long time coming but better late than never. Though I didn't need his approval or praise, it felt good to know or believe that we connected for at least that one moment. I was also able to tell him that I had forgiven him. A gesture that was important for me, and hopefully for him. Regardless it will make the grieving process easier knowing things were better between us.