Family Stories: My Last Goodbye to Daddy

My Last Goodbye to Daddy

daddy and me

Happy Father’s Day Daddy!

My last “Father’s Day” was 1982… I called Daddy to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, as I’ve always done… little did I know it would be my last! I was thirty years old, he was fifty three… not nearly old enough for either one of us to say a final goodbye! I was married with two children, age 3 and 6; they had only spent a short time with their grandfather, especially as I now lived in Connecticut, while he was in Georgia.

I hadn’t spent nearly enough time with my father when I was young… he was busy working… and unfortunately, gambling and drinking got in the way. I turned eighteen in 1970… my parents divorced… and I graduated from high school… it was a whirlwind year! I had stayed to live with my father instead of going with my mother as it was my senior year. She moved back to my grandfather’s farm to care for him… and I wanted to graduate in my home town instead of moving to a new school… at the almost end of  my senior year.

I became very close with my father after my parents divorce… finally spending more time together. We were getting to really know each other, but unfortunately it didn’t last long as I fell in love that year (1970)… married in May of 1971 and moved to Connecticut.

It took me years to finally understand that I threw a curveball at my father when I announced that I was suddenly marrying… he was blindsided! What was I thinking… I wasn’t… I was a young nineteen year old in love… and only thinking about being in love!

It was about a year after graduation, when I pounced the news upon him that I was getting married. I can’t imagine his shock when I suddenly told him that I’d met a guy in the Air Force… and he was coming down… and we were getting married… and I was moving to Connecticut! I think at first, he didn’t even believe me until Steve finally arrived on his doorstep late one afternoon in April.

Daddy and my soon to be husband hit it off… but only after daddy sat him down for a little talk of how he’d better be serious about this marriage and taking care of his daughter. Typical Southern-father reading the riot act to his future son-in-law! I felt like a child when I was sent out of the room… as daddy wanted to have a talk with Steve… his future son in law.

It was the morning we left for Connecticut when I slightly realized that my father couldn’t really handle me leaving. He left the house early that morning before we were even awake…. then called to say goodbye… with excuses that he had to go into work and couldn’t leave to get home in time to say goodbye. I was now leaving home without that final hug and kiss from daddy. I was so excited in leaving to even think… I should have tracked him down and got that last hug… that last kiss… if only I had thought! Daddy was a strong man, I’d never seen him cry… and I’m thinking he didn’t want me to see the weak side of him… crying as we hugged to say goodbye! It’s been over 38 years, and the tears still come when I think about that day!

Daddy visited me in Connecticut a few times, first to visit and meet my husband’s family, which he bonded well with at the summer picnics… later again to visit the grandchildren, but it was the summer of 1982, his last visit… and my last time seeing him. He was back working at the air base in Warner Robins, and they had sent him to New Hampshire on a special electronic detail… to install something secret in the planes there. Everything was always secretive with him in his work… only telling me that it was secret… and never telling me exactly what he did.

Life suddenly changed for me…

My life quickly changed on Monday, January 3rd 1983, in receiving the phone call that he was gone… and then suddenly I was standing at daddy’s grave, watching the folding of the flag being presented to someone that had only been with him for six months… one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced… and she had made it clear that I wasn’t getting the flag or pretty much anything else.

My father must have had some insight that something was happening with him, as out of the blue, on a Friday, he called me from work… just to chat and tell me he loved me. While it was an unusual call, as to the timing… I later looked back on that call as he was telling me goodbye and wanted his last words of “I love you” to be remembered.

Standing beside my father’s grave at the cemetery was the hardest thing I had ever done in my thirty one years of life. But the hardest was… I stood there feeling all alone. My father had remarried… and being an only child… I was now treated as an outsider at my own father’s funeral! I suddenly felt like a nobody… and I was his “only” child!


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About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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