“My Father is Dying. Should I Go to His Death Bed?” – A Lesson for All Fathers and Men
I recently received a call from my uncle, informing me my father was in the hospital and might be dying. We decided a long time ago to distance ourselves away from him for reasons you will soon read. But, it’s sad that a man’s brother and son has to discuss if they should go to his deathbed or not.
My father is not a good man. I don’t think he ever was, judging by what my uncle told me of his youth. I haven’t spoken to him for over a decade because I was afraid to become him. The last time we talked was when I was a broke college student who wanted a suit. My father didn’t provide for me as a child, my maternal grandmother took on that responsibility. In fact, every time I asked for financial help, he would turn it around on me and make me feel guilty for asking. I asked him for the suit so I can have something stylish to wear in college, but I had found myself lying saying it was for interviews.
The last thing my father ever said to me was life-altering, and it shaped who I wanted to be as a man. “You can’t con a con-man.” A simple statement which left me with an existential crisis. I left my father that day and hadn’t spoken to him since, because I was afraid to become him.
You might think that one encounter and my reaction to it might be childish and even selfish. But my father had chosen to live a life where honesty and integrity were expendable. He lived a life of negligence and malicious intent with his choices affecting everyone he encounters like a plague. I write this as an anecdotal morality tale of why our actions matter and why fathers are essential.
I had access to a criminal database when I worked as a cop. I hadn’t heard from my father for 6 years at that point, and I’ve gotten curious. I looked him up and found out he was caught shoplifting many times. Each time he was able to worm his way out of the arrest.
I remember as a child he would take my brother, cousin and I to K-Mart to steal. He told us to get any toy we wanted, and we gleefully did. He would then find a product packaged in a large box and take it to a secluded aisle, away from the security cameras. He took out the contents of the box and replaced it with the toys and anything else he picked out. He then resealed the box and went to the checkout line as if he was buying one large item. The cashiers just scanned the box with it still in the cart, never knowing the difference.
He would pay $50 for a box containing over a $1000 worth of stolen goods. We did it every few months, and he never was caught.
Thieving and Conniving
My father has a gift for extorting people. He did it to his own mother multiple times. My uncle had to restrain himself during her funeral by using the eulogy to expose my father. During my uncle’s tumultuous youth, he beat-up a cousin who had owed my grandmother money. The cousin kept saying he had paid her back but she never received it and my uncle thought he was lying.
The truth came out many years later at the funeral when my uncle discovered to his horror that the cousin wasn’t lying. He had given the money to my father, entrusting him to take the cash to my grandmother. My father kept the money instead and never told the truth. He destroyed two relationships and stole from his own mother over a couple of hundred dollars.
Several years later my grandfather died in Florida. My uncle flew down from New York and was staying at my deceased grandfather's house so he can arrange the funeral. An hour before the funeral, my uncle heard a loud knock on my grandfathers’ door and found a cop waiting for him.
My father had called the police on my uncle and accused him of auto-theft. My uncle was simultaneously devastated, confused and infuriated but he calmly dealt with the cop. The cop explained that there was a car in the backyard which belongs to my father and he accused my uncle of towing it.
It turned out my dad conned an elderly woman into signing over her title to him in the hopes he would sell it for her. He kept the car for himself and hid it in my grandfathers’ backyard. He lied at first, but my grandfather found out before he died and had it towed off of his property without my father knowing. My father didn’t know my grandfather hauled it and assumed it was my uncle just before the funeral.
My uncle went to his fathers’ funeral furious and was hoping to confront my father. My father showed up during the service, sat in the back and cowardly left before it ended.
Though divorced from my mother, he still had a relationship with my maternal grandpa. My grandpa loved hanging out with my father and had always treated my father like a son. One summer, my grandpa went to Puerto Rico to spend time with family but received a strange call from a female saying she was from the New York Lottery Commission, and he owed $20,000 from the bodega he sold.
My grandpa was always responsible for his bills and finances. But he still had help from my grandmother to fill out the checks and to read the bills to him since English was his second language. This time he trusted my father to help him with the bills and sent him signed blank checks, in the hopes he would use it to pay the Lottery Commission.
The truth came out when my grandpa found out that he never owed any money to the Lottery Commission. My fathers’ wife had disguised her voice and impersonated the Lottery representative. My father then took the checks and cashed them.
The police investigated and arrested my father, but he never went to trial because my grandpa dropped the charges. He didn’t have the heart to send him to prison and accepted he would never get back his $15,000.
Something which still haunts me and maybe it’s the reason why I am overprotective of women. I remember my mother's bloodcurdling cries as my father punched her repeatedly and ripped chunks of hair from her scalp. I remember my brother and I huddled in a corner, hysterically crying as we watched helplessly at our mother took a bloody beating. I cried out to God to come to save us and also wishing I was a superhero so I can stop him.
The NYPD came and took my father away. Sadly, this wasn’t the last time they had to go to our home when I was a child.
There were multiple times in my life where I found myself almost “over-extending” my authority whenever I encountered an abused woman. I felt the overwhelming temptation to beat the man to his knees, only stopping when I see him vomit blood. Each time I was able to restrain my monster, just because it wasn’t legal.
I had a black and white Shih Tzu as a child, and I loved her dearly. She was a bit hyper and had a habit of following us to the toilet as we peed. One night my father came home from work and went straight to the bathroom. I was in the kitchen with my mother and brother when I heard the loud squeal. My beloved dog was crying in excruciating pain, and my mother rushed her to the animal hospital.
The next day we waited in the Vet’s waiting room, and I could hear my dog crying in pain from the other room. I kept naively reassuring myself the Vet was going to fix her up and we can cuddle again. I don’t remember what the Vet told us when he came out, but I remember my mother explaining to me what “euthanize” means. I learned what death was that day as I cried hysterically over my dead dog lying on the cold steel slab. Gently combing her beautifully soft fur on her still warm body, I hoped it was a bad dream, and she would be with me again when I awoke.
My father taught me what death and cruelty were that day. He claimed he stepped on the dog by accident, but my cousins and uncle always joked about it being an “accident.” It wasn’t until I was an adult I realized the cruel jokes my father told us of how he tortured neighborhood cats when he was a kid were not of dark humor, but a sign of a psychopath.
(I was unable to remember my dogs' name. It wasn’t from poor memory but from repression. The memory of my dog’s death came flooding back as I wrote this article.)
Despite what I’ve written previously, I thought my dad couldn’t go any lower. He has committed heinous acts, but this one was a detestable one. For the sake of the victim’s privacy, I have decided to omit the details of the story and just write the facts.
He had manipulated a high school student into taking nude pictures for him. This was kept a secret within the family because my brother and I went to the same high school as her, and my mother didn’t want us getting involved in a scandal. Not to justify his actions but the young woman he coxed was of legal age and a senior, so what he did was technically legal. It was the young woman he chose to manipulate which was detestable. For if I were to reveal the full story, then it might hurt her but also show my father as a real monster.
I remember arguing with my father when I was fourteen about needing help with money for school. I remember the room and his sweet odor, which I sometimes miss. He started his usual practice of imposing guilt on me for asking him to do his fatherly duty.
He would make up the same excuses for why he was broke such as paying child support, which he didn’t. I called him out on how he bought a new big screen TV but didn’t have money for his children. But, I was caught off guard when he said it was OK for him to treat us like this because his father did it to him.
A Lesson to Learn
My father did other cruel and darkly deeds. He stole donations from a charity for handicapped children while he was participating in a fundraiser. He committed bigamy when he married my mother and lied about divorcing his first two wives. You couldn’t leave him alone in your house because he would snatch expensive watches or jewelry from your bedroom. He had a son from his second marriage named Frank, which he also named me. So, he has two sons named Frank. I’ve never met my half-brother, but I was told he was a drug dealer. It’s only by sheer luck my father is not in prison or was murdered by one of his victims.
But he isn’t alone in the rogues’ gallery of what you would consider my family. I have cousins who conned other family members into taking their money. I have a great-uncle who is a megalomaniac and once threatened to kill me with a gun. His reasoning? He felt threatened because I screamed in anger at him when he exploited my painful memories and insecurities I had entrusted with him.
I wrote this article not to shame my father but to teach a lesson to all men and fathers. Our actions do matter, and they have long-lasting effects which grow unpredictably with time. Today, I see men abandoning children or repeating the same mistakes their parents did to them. It doesn’t have to be like that. You can choose to be something better. You can choose to be that hero you needed as a kid, who is also needed by your children. That is our glorious burden as men and fathers. To face the darkness from our past and conquer it, so it may never touch the ones we hold dear.
If you think your actions don’t matter, heed my fathers’ example. His actions had not only affected his children and family, but they will continue to affect generations way after his death negatively. But, I have a choice in all of this. I can become the circumstances of my fathers’ actions, or I can use it to become better. To take something vile and toxic, and make it into something beneficial and pure. To end the vicious cycle.
As for my fear of becoming my father; the fear still plagues me every day. But I’ve come to realize the fear is a good thing. It serves a hallowed purpose. Through this fear, I choose to be honest and compassionate. To never be cruel or cowardly. That is the lesson I take from my father.
As for the question of going to his deathbed; if he is ever to call me then I would go. Not for him, not for me. But, for my future children. I have to show them that you can be something more than your circumstances. That you can be a hero. That compassion and honor should know no bounds, even to the people who may never deserve it.