Today, one year ago in the early morning hours in Florida Hospital Orlando, Papa ended his fight. He was 71 years old.
Here is the obituary that I wrote for him. It wasn’t published in his hometown paper. A shorter more mundane version was published. Momma didn’t think his Pennsylvania family would get it. She was probably right.
Dennis “Papa” Teets
Dennis “Papa” Teets died in Orlando, Florida on January 8th surrounded by his family at the age of 71.
He is survived by his mother, Beatrice, sister Cindy, his brother Dale, his wife, Patricia, son, Eric, stepchildren, Katherine, Marie, Frederick and Lucinda, grandchildren, Fredrick, Thomas, Emma and Anika. He is preceded into death by his beloved cat, Rambo.
He was born on April 14th, 1946, in Uniontown, PA. It was said when he was born, you could see the devil in his eyes.
He proudly served in the U.S. Army and spent a career working for the GSA. He was a slayer of demons and rescuer of damsels in distress, unless ocean waves were involved.
He wasn’t a perfect man. He didn’t always have the right words, but he loved his family and hated when he hurt them.
His family was his world. He liked to cause minor mischief reserving major mischief for leap years or when no one was looking. No one was good enough for his daughters and he always wondered where the second half of their skirts went to.
On August 3, 2018, he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery .
This last year has been rockiest of my life. In early July 2017, I wrote about my heartbreak when my relationship of over a decade ended. By early August, I had decided to move.
It was a long time coming; little of the move had to do with my Ex. He only helped in determining the place. My beloved fairy godfathers had offered several times to help me move back to Virginia and get settled. Looking around, I realized that there was nothing holding me back anymore. Well one thing, telling Papa that I was going.
September came with Hurricane Irma. My little yellow house, my precious little house survived the night. The power lasted until 5:20 am. It flickered on and off until going out with a crack. It stayed off for four days, I was out of work for a week while they worked to restore power.
On the second day after the hurricane, I got a roommate and lost my office. It’s a long story and only parts of it are mine.
One causality of the hurricane was my purple PT cruiser. The hurricane froze the brakes then electrical system decided it wanted attention. For two weeks, I had to pop the hood every time I stopped the car to remove a fuse.
My incredibly wise sister convinced to go looking for a car. I came home that day with a new car. The man who sold it to me turned out to be a distant cousin. (thanks again, Cousin Martin) Papa was there helping me make one of the biggest purchases of my life. It was one of the last times we went out. The next time would be my birthday.
Since May 2017, Papa’s was growing worse. His cirrhosis which we were lead to believe was treatable was not so willing to be treated. He was and out of the hospital. The road ahead for my parents looked bleak and was bleak.
My second year as a middle school teacher wasn’t going any smoother than the first year. Mentally, I was checking in and out at work knowing that I won’t be at the school for another year. Professionally, I had a lot of things to do to prepare for my move. Motivation to move was strong. The motivation to do the things necessary for the move was not. The paperwork for my new teaching license was left to the last minute.
Eventually all the change meant putting my plans to start a page on Patreon on hold. I was writing, but not finishing much of anything. I couldn’t see myself asking for me to support my heart if I wasn’t producing it. Starting and not finishing projects. My mind was too scattered. My life was being to be summarized by a series of things that I couldn’t get myself to do.
Thanksgiving came and Papa was in the hospital. We celebrated our last Christmas as a family and then Papa went into the hospital for the last time.
He passed on January 8th of this year. Momma, my brother Eric and I were with him. The whole night remains surreal.
Two weeks after he passed, I reconnected with an old friend. Not only did I have a mini adventure on Sanibel Island, but I am now planning on going to France next summer.
June 15th, I moved back to Virginia. Papa wasn’t told I was going. It was an open secret before his death. Before I left Momma handed a framed picture of Papa to me. It sits on my writing desk.
I feel at peace here in my new writing nook looking out the mountains. There are walks everyday. The writing routine that was pushed aside is coming back.
I still miss Papa. I don’t think I will ever stop missing the man who choose to be my father.
This Thursday, Papa will be interned at Arlington National Cemetery. Our family hero will be laid to rest with dignity and respect. I can not thank my friends and family enough for their patience, love and understanding this last year. The brightest spots in the year were because of all of you.
This is my Papa. I met my Papa when I was thirteen years old. I was already taller than him. And he still had some color in his hair. Since then we have both grown quite a crop of steely gray hair.
According to legend, he fell in love with Momma over homemade spaghetti. She didn’t cook it mind you. He did and he had forgotten to stock up on red pepper flakes. When he mentioned it, Momma pulled a large container of them out of her purse. .
I am not sure how a large container of pepper flakes made it into her purse. Maybe she was using them as a cheap version of pepper spray? Throwing the whole container at would be assailants and hoping that her aim was true to hit them in the eye or at least the shock of seeing a flying pepper flake container would slow them down.
A few weeks or months later, Momma came by to pick me up for an outing with Denny. After Denny came into her life I saw Momma more and more. If he did nothing else he brought my mother back into my life. (But, he did do more)
You see a year earlier, we lost our house. Momma went to stay with friends and I returned from my annual stay at my grandmothers house to live with my father. The separation would last nearly a year. It wasn’t by choice on either of our parts. In the meantime, life became a serious of events where I tried and failed to win the approval of my birth father and stepmother. Every decision I made questioned and denounced as immature and lacking thought. My interests were weird and I was disrespectful. I didn’t know how to please them and eventually just retreated to my books and imagination.
My father and mother had divorced when I was six. He told my mother that he didn’t love her anymore. And she told him to leave. I don’t know what it cost her to do it; to go against everything that she had been taught about life and marriage. She came from the work it out generation. Her parents were married for over fifty years. The only way out of marriage was death. And she let my father go alive. She could have killed him for cheating on him. She could have raged against him. She never did at least not in front of us kids. She told him to go. Told him that he had to go that they weren’t just going to go through a divorce sleeping in the same bed or living in the same roof . She told him to go and where the boundaries were. I love her for that and everything she did that followed to do right by us. We never made it easy.
Sadly in the months following the divorce I blamed my mother and tried to fight her. She rocked and held me close until I calmed down. She didn’t understand that my father had just told me he was going on a business trip not that he was leaving permanently.
My father is not a man known for his sense of humor or love of literature. Actually, I don’t know why people like my father. I do know that he hated my nose was always in a book and wanted me to get out and do things. I wanted to do things. The things in the books I was reading. The characters had horrible lives to be sure (I was a huge VC Andrews fan), but their lives were filled with excitement and love.
Love is something my father still has difficultly communicating to his nearly forty-year old daughter. He rarely says it and every time I hear it, I question whether he is sick or not. Dying being the event that would induce an out pouring of emotion from his tight lips.
Papa has never had trouble communicating his love, frustration or anger with me. It hasn’t always been smooth and he has been so angry at me that I am sure he was seeing cross eyed. I was never the rebellious teen. No, I did all my stupid, worry the parents stuff in my mid to late twenties after I came home to live with them. When I was a pain in the butt, he let me know. And while we will never agree on politics completely (so far we both hate Trump), we always agree on the fact that I am his daughter.
Maybe he didn’t provide half my genetic sequence, but he did provide all the love and support a child could wish for. He showed me what it was like to have two loving and strong parents in the home. He gave me what I missed as a child of divorce the feeling of a strong family unit.
Father’s day is hard on a lot of people. Some people like my Papa didn’t know their fathers or have fathers like mine who won’t accept them for who they are. Papa doesn’t always understand me, but he loves and accepts me. All of me. It is what a father does.
Today, my Momma turns 69 years old. Last night, she went to the emergency room with her baby-girl. It was her anniversary to Papa and she spent it with me whimpering in pain. A stomach virus took me out and my Momma took care of me once again. It is what Momma’s do. They take care of their kids. It doesn’t stop when they are eighteen or even twenty-one. It is a lifetime commitment.
It hasn’t been a easy one for Momma. No mother’s journey is really easy. But she was always done her best. She continues to teach me lessons. So here are a few of the lesson you have taught me over the years.
1) I am worthy of love, we all are worthy of love.
2) Don’t sit down if you want to get things done.
3) Always say thank you.
4) Take a genuine interest in others and listen.
5) Naps are awesome.
6) Just because some is blood doesn’t mean you have to let them hurt you.
7) It is ok to say, No.
8) Know when to step back and let people make their own mistakes.
9) Forgiveness isn’t forgetting
10) Send someone flowers can brighten their day.
11) Kindness does matter.
12) It is okay to cry.
13) Taking time for yourself is necessary
14) Stubbornness is a superpower, use it wisely.
15) Sometimes you just need to play.
16) Making things with your hands is an awesome way to be creative.
17) You don’t have to keep everything someone gives you.
18) Daydreaming is a survival skill.
19) Books are a necessity in life.
20) Sometimes with family, you love them but you don’t like them.
21) Everyone has issues. Everyone.
22) You never have to grow up, but you do grow older.
23) Dessert for breakfast is acceptable as is having your dessert first.
There are a lot more lessons, but I am still under the weather and need a nap. Thank you, Momma. I love you.
He’s not your real father. So don’t expect him to care. She’s not your real kid so don’t expect her to love you. Step-kids aren’t really kids. And Step-parents are just playing a game that they can stop at any time.
But my Papa loves me. He shows me everyday and has always got my back.
Years ago, Papa made a choice to be a father to my siblings and myself. He didn’t have to do it as I have said many times before, but he did and we are a stronger family for it. My sister and I needed him in more ways than we can count.
Our birth father is a good man, just not an emotional one. He loves us in his own way. Sometimes however that way is toxic to his children who want love without judgment and strings. Believe when I tell you that your kids need your love more than anything else. They need to show them how to love, how to maintain healthy relationships and how to stick with it. They also need forgiveness and second and third chances. They need to be told no a times as well.
I know my birth father loves me and is proud of me, but there is a seed of doubt in me when it comes to accepting that it is real.
With my Papa, there is no doubt. None at all.
Last night, I was blessed to be able to take my parents out to dinner for Papa’s birthday which was earlier this week. It was a new level of adulthood, paying for their dinner without them fretting at me. Momma told me how proud he was of what I wrote on Tuesday and that he was going to take a copy of it to the family reunion. Some of our northern family has told him that stepchildren aren’t real kids. They have even gone so far as to tell my Papa that we will abandon him if something happens to Momma.
My sister and I aren’t going anywhere. His grandkids, his grandkids, will not abandon him. He is family and he has made us a strong family by supporting us, guiding us and loving us unconditionally.
It is sad that some people have to hate on the happiness of others. I know that our family is unique and not every blended family is like ours, but we work and we are happy. In the end, isn’t that all that should matter.
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When I was twelve years old, I got the very best present in the world, my Papa. He didn’t come exactly on my birthday. I don’t even remember the exact day, but when he came in to my Mom’s life. He made sure she was in mine again. We finish each other’s sentences. And if you see a picture of the two of us, it is hard not to see his face in mine.
He became my Papa and has been a father to me for twenty-four years. He has never played Papa, he has been Papa. He dropped me off in college and moved me to Florida when I was done. He has come to my rescue and been tough on me when I needed it. There aren’t a lot of men like him in the world. Not only because he took on my crazy family and made it his own, but because well, there is not one really like him. He is really and truly one of those people that you have to meet to understand.
Papa hasn’t had an easy life. He was born to a single mother in the 1940’s and grew up in poverty. He has however tried to do his best to make my Mom’s life easy and happy. Momma and Papa are like twin suns in the universe that is my family. The world just isn’t right if one of them isn’t shining.
Happy Birthday Papa, may your light shine for many, many years to come.