Today marks the one year anniversary of my fathers death. I have waited a year to tell his story but I feel its important I do it now so that it is in my blog for when I am gone.
My dad was born in 1942 and his parents were 45 and 50 years old when he was born. He had two older brothers Tom and Bob who were 20+ years older than he. Around the age of 18 months his mother took him to the Memorial Day dedication ceremony where they decorated the graves and had food and things. He ended up covered in misquote bites and then contracted polio. She went to her grave thinking the bites caused the polio but that is not how its transmitted. My dad ended up partially paralzyed and went to Shriners Hospital. Someone in the family was a Shriner. My dad never needed an iron lung but his legs never fully recovered. He was in braces and crutches until high school. He was told repeatedly he would never walk without them but he was determined not to enter high school with braces and crutches. Somehow he taught himself to walk by throwing his legs forward with little to no calf or thigh muscles. Most of his muscles had either atrophied or were removed during the many surgeries he had. Every doctor that ever saw him after said it was impossible for him to be walking but yet there he was walking. He had a limp that probably bothered him but I never even really thought about it. His parents told him he would never marry and probably be a secretary for a job. His mom was a worrier and was convinced she would not live long enough to see him graduate high school.
He grew up in Salem and one night he and another guy showed up at my moms house for a date. Well my mom was watching her brother who is 16 years younger than her. She said she couldn’t leave the house but could at nine. She didn’t think they would come back but they did. When she was introduced to my dad she told him “you look like a John”. He was like thanks I look like a toilet. That began their dating and writing letters back and forth until they were eventually married in June of 1962. He took a job with ACIC Aeronautical Chart and Information Center as a clerk. Shortly after my parents married his job was going to be relocated to Ohio so he resigned and then his boss recommended for him to join the negative engraving department. He was in that department for the rest of his career. ACIC then assimilated with the Defense Mapping Agency which we always referred to as DMAC. Maybe the C stood for center as I am too lazy to do in-depth reading on this. I am assuming some restructuring occurred when its name changed once again to National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). The flood of 1993 destroyed the south Saint Louis facility so a new one was built just one mile from my house. It opened in 1998 and my father worked in that building until he retired. The name changed again in 2003 to National Geospatial Agency which it is still currently is called. My father officially retired after forty years of service but did go back as an independent contractor for a few years. He was the last negative engraver to do it by hand. Everyone else was using a computer. He did his job perfectly and could draw a straight line without a ruler. It was crazy. He saved every piece of paper he ever received from his job and I spent about four hours looking through all of them. I came to the conclusion my dad was an excellent employee, was well liked and received many awards and bonus’s for his work. I also have a resume he submitted when he upgraded his job. Now I know that a lot of my sisters and I work ethic comes from him as well as my mother. He never once mentioned an award or anything.
As for my grandmas thoughts she was wrong about all of it. He was far more than a secretary. After all once we started the Iraq war my father told he knew it was coming based on what he was doing at work. My father also had top security clearance for a long time. He also saved his reapplications for security clearance. These had a wealth of information in them including addresses for my grandparents, his second wife, and his brothers houses in the past. My father also married, not once but three times. She not only lived long enough to see him graduate from high school but also my sister and I, as well as my graduation from nursing school. She obviously worried too much!
I was at work on May 26 and at 10:25 my phone rang and it was some weird name I had never seen so I ignored it. This person left a voice mail which was really weird. It was from a cop calling on behalf of his wife. I thought this is a trick and then I thought what if its not so I shot her a text and she said it was real it was about my father. So I said let me finish this colonoscopy and I will call you in-between cases. So I dropped the patient off and went into our break room. I was not prepared for what I heard that day. She told me that she had went to Target and when she came home my father had shot and killed himself. I went into shock. I walked out of the break room almost straight into Dr. Heavey. I repeated this to him and he put his arm around me and told me he was sorry and he would take me wherever I wanted to go. I said take me to Chris so he did. I eventually called Brian’s parents and asked them to pick me up because I was in no shape to drive. I called Brian and my mother. On the way home I bossed Brian’s parents around and said please stop at the gas station, I need cigarettes and do not judge me. My sister had spoken to the cop and knew he had died but not how. His wife asked me to tell my sister before she arrived. I told my sister who was driving to pull over but she didn’t listen to me. She did eventually pull over. So she arrived at my dads house before they had taken his body away. He had taken the riding lawn mower down to the woods and went where you couldn’t see him to end his life. Just like my dad not to make a mess in the house or in his perfect yard. I was not mad at my dad for this at all because as usual there is more to the story.
When the medical community first started seeing post polio syndrome my father said to me “If I ever need to be in a wheelchair because I cannot walk anymore, I want you to shoot me.” I was in my teenager years and I knew he was serious. He did not want to live if he could not walk and be independent. Covid hit in March of 2020 and the last time I ever saw him was Christmas of 2019. Because of his wife’s health issues they were locked in their house and went no where except to the doctors office. They had everything delivered. During this time his mobility began to really go downhill. It got to the point that he would only go to the mailbox after dark so his neighbors wouldn’t see him fall. He no longer slept under Grandma Carty’s quilt because it was too heavy for him to move his legs. He also experienced skin cancer on his face during the lockdown and was told he couldn’t really be outside anymore. He loved the outdoors and was always messing around in his yard. Then the final blow came when he had a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with a form of ulcerative colitis and was told he would have diarrhea for the rest of his life. The medicine they put him on to control it made his feet swell and he barely could walk. He told my sister it was a death sentence and was gone a week later. I totally understand why he said F this and went to be with Jesus. I mean if he were a dog we would have put him to sleep. I know this may sound really harsh but its the truth.
After he died I knew I wanted a tattoo of his signature. My sister surprised me and got one of a bike. My dad rode a bike all his life. His brothers bought him his first bike when he was little. He use to pop wheelies in front of my Grandma just to make her have a fit that he was going to get hurt. He did the moonlight ramble for many years. He also rode the Katy trail for miles on end. He never ever wore shorts and I only saw his legs once. He was trying to care a tire down the basement steps and fell and broke his leg. He came to Mercy’s emergency room so I came down and stayed with him. He really did not have much leg muscles at all. I totally understood why he wore jeans his entire life even to bike ride for miles on end. So my mom who swore she would disown me if I got one more tattoo said I should have a Corvette with his name because he loved Corvettes all of his life. So finally right before Christmas I found his signature on the reapplication for security clearance and a picture of his corvette and took it to All Star Tattoo. It turned out amazing. I really wanted it on my foot but wouldn’t have been able to wear shoes for two weeks so I said ok forearm works for me.
My parents divorced when I was five. Everyone said my sister and I were ruined because of it. However my parents remained great friends throughout my fathers life and I think we would have been ruined if they stayed married. They were better off as friends than as spouses. My father remarried for the second time just a few years later. His second wife also had two daughters close to my sisters and mine ages. As time went on the wife became increasingly jealous of all three of us and eventually gave my father an ultimatum “me or your kids”. He chose us and divorced her. I am not sure if he ever got totally over her and I still have pictures of her and her kids and her with my father. When i was in high school my mom wanted to take my sister and I to Disney World. She called and told my dad and he said why don’t i come with you. So ten plus years after their divorce we took a family vacation. I will always remember riding Space Mountain with him and conning my mother into riding it. She talks about it to this day as she is not even a roller coaster fan. He also use to take my sister and I to Six Flags every summer. I can remember him riding the Screaming Eagle over and over with us. As an adult I don’t know how he did it. Maybe it wasn’t as rough when it opened back in 1976. He and I rode it the year it opened but my sister was too short to ride. He also use to take us on float trips and I will never forget the very last one. I was in nursing school and it was October. I was trying to pull the boat up on shore and dumped my sister and him in the water. He cannot swim but it wasn’t over his head. However he was stuck wearing wet jeans the rest of the float. I always thought this is why we never went again. I was convinced he was going to kill me but surprisingly he wasn’t mad at all.
When my mom threatened to throw me out of her will, I laughed and said dad is way richer than you and I am in his will. I remember telling my dad that and he cracked up. However the laugh last was on me! I never really cared about his money and was only curious how much he was worth. I will never know and that is ok. My father had an incredible life and I just wanted to share part of his story. He was the last Carty in his family line. His older brother adopted a son who sadly has passed and never had children and his other brother and wife never could have children. So the only Carty’s left are my mom, my sister and I.
Mole Moral ~ Death always reveals peoples true colors!