Here I was unemployed, trying to learn a new technology, my unemployment checks were running out and I was trying to work odd jobs as a technical writer here and there. I wrote a couple of safety manuals for a construction firm, I wrote some signs for stores and printed them, I wrote brochures for law firms. I wrote whenever I could. I searched the want ads day and night.
Finally, someone online asked who was making all these chat rooms that were popping up. You see, AOL had chatrooms that people could go to and visit with friends, but you could also go to other websites and visit via AOL. I decided to do a little investing and started netdancer.com. My own domain, this was only two years after the world-wide web became the internet I really didn’t have the money to spare, but I saw the future and wanted to claim it. I started creating themed chat rooms on netdancer.com. There were fantasy chat rooms with castles and dragons, there were Star Trek themed chat rooms, there were Western cowboy themed chat rooms. But unlike the AOL chat rooms, mine had music. You could go to my chat rooms and select any songs that you wanted to hear to play while you were chatting with your friends. My chat rooms became very popular and after a while, some of my patrons started asking who created them and if the creator would be available to help them create a website for their business. Ta-da! I was in business. Still a starving artist, but in business. I had never done graphics before, my mother had been the artist in the family, I never considered myself an artist, but I learned.
It was funny, the more I tried, the more support I got online. I started creating things in “Paint” and Excel and got the notice of an artist, who then encouraged me to start using PhotoShop. In fact, he started mentoring me in PhotoShop and sent me a copy of the software in the mail. I was astonished. I was building a friendship with strangers online that I had never even dreamed of doing in real life. Later, another artist saw my work and sent me Illustrator and began mentoring me in that software. My passion for this work was burning and I continued to work frantically to learn everything I could, but I was running out of money.
Then I get a phone call, it was from my father’s best friend. They told me to come home, my father was dying. He hadn’t spoken to me in years. I drove home and found my father in the hospital. He’d never been ill a day in his life. He was a teacher and never missed a day and now he was dying? My father, a tall, handsome man who looked like Clark Gable, was lying in a hospital bed looking weak and vulnerable. But he didn’t want me in his room. So I waited in the waiting room. I talked to the doctors and his friends. They say he collapsed the other day at home and they rushed him to the hospital to find out that he had liver cancer and that he had four months to live. The doctors tell me all the details. I waited in the waiting room to see my father and he didn’t want to see me, I waited in the waiting room for 24 hours a day for 3 days. Finally, at the end of the third day, my father’s best friend’s son came to the hospital at midnight and tells me that I need a break. He takes me out for a drink and a drive. We talked a long time about the situation. He brings me back to the hospital and then my father notices me. He not only notices me, he screams at me “Why did you leave me? Why weren’t you here?” I try to explain to him that I was there for days and he didn’t want to see me. His friend’s son explained that he took me out for a break, that I’d been there non-stop. My father was furious. There was no pleasing him. He wasn’t dying today. I had to leave. I went home.
The next four months were painful, I never heard from my father, I kept in touch with his friends, they were friends of the family and they kept me abreast of the situation. My father had written me out of the will, sold the house to them, given everything that he didn’t sell to my brother, including my mother’s diamond rings. When I got the news from his friends that dad was in his last days, I did go back home. He had sold the home to his best friends under the provision that he could die at home.
He had hired a hospice nurse to take care of him. I remember that day clearly. He had chosen my bedroom, not his marriage bedroom to die in. I thought that was odd at the time. I still wonder about it now. I walked back into my old room and found him there, a shell of his former self. A small little man, not the 6’4″, virile, intimidating man that he had been. The nurse said he couldn’t speak, that he didn’t have long. There was no one else in the room except her, me and Dad. Everyone else, including my brother and his wife, were all in the living room, no one came to check in. Why not? The nurse and I were the only ones there when Dad took his last breath. He kept staring at me the whole time. I just held his hand and sat with him, silent.
He had already made all the funeral arrangements, so there was nothing for us to do. His friends said that he did get religion a few days before he died and that he did leave me a little something. A few stocks, they were California utilities, that weren’t too profitable then, but they did help me get through my unemployment.
I admit I felt guilty when I got home. I felt guilty for not being sad about his death. I felt guilty for being relieved. I felt guilty for feeling like a burden was off my chest. I saw a psychiatrist about it and then realized that it really wasn’t all that abnormal to feel that way. I did have to forgive him, though, not for any other reason except for myself. I figured he didn’t know better, he didn’t know how to handle things any better. I looked and sounded like my mother. It upset him, I was independent, he liked control. He couldn’t control me. I am my own person. I will always be my own person. I don’t submit anymore. I have nothing to be sorry about anymore, and he was who he was and it’s over.