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Thu, Jan. 10th, 2008, 12:01 am
Death and the cold call

So yeah, I apologize for being the buzzkill in my last entry. 'Tis life and its curveballs.

Anyway, here's the scoop on the entire thing with a bit of history/context to it all. This very well may break a personal record for longest post ever (memes notwithstanding). You've been warned...


Here's the scoop on my Pops. I love my Pops. Love him dearly. He was pretty much all I could ask for, growing up. We played together, did those stereotypical pop/son things... he was also the reason why I succeeded alot in my studies. That guy pushed me to excel. He was definitely not one of those "hands off" parents, which was a good thing really. I mean, it worked for me getting into GATE programs, having me skip two grades in elementary school, etc.

Moms and Pops got divorced in '87, when I was 10 (going on 11). Not that there's a convenient time for that kind of thing, but this was during the summer I was about to start Junior High... I had just moved to a different part of town where I knew no one... sis was off to college @ Davis... I was pretty much left to fend for myself in a very vulnerable time. But I still had Pops. He'd come over every other weekday to check up on my studies and we'd hang out on Saturday mornings/afternoons, doing our bowling thing and whatever else was good. The love was there and so long as I had my Pops, I was OK w/out him under the same roof 24/7. I didn't know better. Hell, I was living under an orchestrated charade that Pops took a job elsewhere that was so far he couldn't live under the same roof. How's that for ya?

Flash forward to '88 when things got ugly. The last night I ever saw Pops, we were coming back from a party at one of his friend's cribs. I remember earlier that day my Sis told me that if he asked me to come with him somewhere that night to not go. I wasn't sure why, other than I was told to tell him Moms/Sis really needed me at my place. Being the gullible kid I was, I pretty much took it at face value... Anywho, Pops was getting all the almanacs, encyclopedias, and such that were at my place and then asked me if I could come along. I gave him the line I was fed, and that's about all I remember past that. I can't quite remember if he was sad, angry, or what... the remaining memory I have of that night when he was gone was "One More Try" by George Michael on VH1, followed by Debbie Gibson's "Foolish Beat". To this day, if I hear either of those songs, I'll almost always spontaneously break out sobbing, knowing that was the last I ever saw of him. (Cripes I feel like a pussy for even admitting that.)

So for plenty of years, I wasn't sure what all happened. He was just... gone, like that. I never was the type to question a lot around me, just because the way I was hard-wired... I was told that so long as I was pulling great grades and achieved in school, everything was right in the world and everyone was happy. Yeah, classic Asian parenting, eh?

On top of all that, my Moms and Sis detested Pops for personal reasons. Reasons that were not disclosed to me at the time and wasn't told about until last year by my Sis (which will not be named here, but if you must know, ask me off LJ). I knew there was an ugly divorce and a tumultuous relationship, but somehow, I felt like I was the one thing everyone had in common. No matter how much everyone hated each other, I was the innocent one that had enough power to cause a ceasefire. Crazy, eh? At any rate, there was no way in hell Moms/Sis wanted me to have anything to do with him. That didn't help in my search.

Before the Internets became a normal thing for everyone, it was hard for me to figure out how to find my Pop. Private dicks would've charged a grip and I was more or less left to wish on a star in hopes I'd see him again. My dream of having him at my HS graduation didn't come to fruition, so I more or less just tried to block it all out of my head to never revisit the hurt. I figured out of sight, out of mind. That and just MAYBE... someday we'll see each other again.

Flash forward to about 2002ish... I'd been together with Melody for a while at this point. Her Mom was big into genealogy and had a way she could track down Pops if I wanted. I offered up as much info as I could get on him. My birth certificate was the key, since it had his Social Security number, which was about as gold as anything. Anyway, her Mom & I had a HUGE falling out (no need to get into it now, otherwise I'd almost double this post). It wasn't until early '07 that we've been civil towards each other and made steps towards ending the estrangement.

Finally, that takes us up to Christmas '07. Her Mom mentioned that since I'm going to be part of the family, I needed to know about Pops and we needed to find him. I was all for it, so I dug up the info again and we started going through sites that could track him. We found a site that pulled up a candidate that matched his birth date. The excitement in me was welling up, thinking at least the whole "better late than never" would personify me seeing Dad again.

Unfortunately, during the whole search, there was also a death notice in there. The birth date matched too. In a flash, I got that nervous feeling in my stomach. Tell me I didn't miss the boat after all this time. Don't tell me because all that drama happened with her Mom & me, I missed out on my Dad... No... just no.

After some intense research... we stumbled upon this obituary:

BALTAZAR, MIKE

Mike C. Baltazar, 74, of Las Vegas, died March 30, 2005. He was a retired airport personnel manager. Visitation will be from 4-6 p.m. Friday, April 1, with services immediately following, both at Palm Mortuary, 7400 W. Cheyenne Ave.


That was the nail in the coffin, no pun intended. There I was, feeling like I got stomach punched, and worse, feeling like a jerk for never trying harder to contact him all this time. It was all so much to take in. I mean, I've never dealt with death hitting someone that close to me. Sure, I've had friends who lost their parents, grandparents... I lost a teacher in high school... but man, I wasn't prepared for this one.

Trying to put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle is going to be an uphill battle and so far, it definitely seems interesting. I contacted the mortuary to see where he was buried, so I could at least find his resting place and pay my respects. Apparently he was cremated and his ashes were give to his last ex-wife, a woman named Zenaida. According to the report I ordered (which was a hell of a fascinating read. It's amazing how much dirt can be dug up on you for the right price...), she's either living in Las Vegas or some small town south of Fresno. I have potential addresses and phone numbers to contact her. Here's where the fear kicks in...

How in the world do I go about contacting her? Write her a letter? Cold call her? "Oh by the way, I'm his son. Think I can see Pops one last time before I see him in Heaven?" It definitely breaches all sorts of awkwardness, I bet. It makes me wonder if he ever told her about me. If so, did he have fond memories of me? Did he at least have an inkling of an idea I loved him dearly?

I had a really good IM conversation with my boy Felix the day after Christmas (Boxing Day for you crazy Canadians. =P). It was probably the most therapeutic thing I could've had. Excerpt below:

(I bolded a few important notes that really hit me.)

Felix (2:52:03 PM): Yo...so did you find out what happened to pops?
Melvis of RTF (2:52:08 PM): So... the basic backstory to it is...
Melvis of RTF (2:52:29 PM): Melody's Mom is big into geneaology and is pretty savvy withfinding people, etc.
Melvis of RTF (2:52:48 PM): She was gonna' help me back in '02 or so, but we had a big falling out, so we were at odds for years
Melvis of RTF (2:53:14 PM): Anywho... yesterday, her Moms says I should really try to find my Pops, to which yeah... I wnana' know
Melvis of RTF (2:53:19 PM): wanna*
Melvis of RTF (2:53:29 PM): Did a few searches, used his SSN...
Melvis of RTF (2:53:47 PM): Turned up in an Las Vegas obituary
Melvis of RTF (2:54:04 PM): The birth date matches him to a "T"
Melvis of RTF (2:54:23 PM): He died 30-Mar-2005
Felix (2:54:58 PM): COD?
Melvis of RTF (2:55:23 PM): I ordered a copy of the death certificate. It'll say on there.
Felix (2:55:56 PM): How does that make you feel?
Melvis of RTF (2:55:55 PM): It's nuts, man...
Melvis of RTF (2:56:38 PM): I mean, I -really- wanted to see Pops at least once in my adulthood... just because the last time I ever saw him, it was that whole franctic scene of him leaving for good... unbeknownst to me
Melvis of RTF (2:57:18 PM): And it would just really hurt me inside if he never knew I still loved him after all that time... I mean, sure my Mom and Sis could give a damn about him, but I was different
Melvis of RTF (2:57:37 PM): I was basically caught in a crazy crossfire between everyone
Melvis of RTF (2:57:59 PM): And here's where it gets -really- interesting
Melvis of RTF (2:58:13 PM): So I contacted the mortuary where his body was
Melvis of RTF (2:58:31 PM): Apparently he was cremated and the ashes were given to his last wife
Felix (2:58:47 PM): last wife?
Melvis of RTF (2:58:51 PM): Yeah, he married once more after my Moms
Melvis of RTF (2:59:01 PM): <-- had no idea
Melvis of RTF (2:59:22 PM): Originally I was hoping he'd be buried somewhere and I'd make my pilgrimage
Melvis of RTF (2:59:31 PM): But now it's gonna' be a bit trickier
Felix (2:59:53 PM): Gotta find out who the last wife is, right?
Melvis of RTF (3:00:16 PM): I know her name (Zenaida), and if I -really- wanted to be gung-ho, I could pull up her information
Melvis of RTF (3:00:51 PM): Thing is... how d'ya bring all this up to someone who's pretty much a complete stranger?
Felix (3:01:20 PM): It's a cold call...basically...
Melvis of RTF (3:01:53 PM): Yeah. Definitely a recipe for an awkward situation.
Felix (3:02:13 PM): Life is awkward.
Felix (3:02:32 PM): Familiarity and routine smoothes them out
Melvis of RTF (3:02:32 PM): this is true...
Felix (3:02:58 PM): Nothing to it but to do it.
Melvis of RTF (3:02:56 PM): Judging from what I've gathered... she's either in Vegas or out in some small town south of Fresno
Felix (3:03:17 PM): If she's in Vegas...need company?
Felix (3:03:33 PM): ***Yes...I'm THAT self-serving***
Melvis of RTF (3:03:30 PM): haha, prolly
Melvis of RTF (3:05:15 PM): It would be nice to see some manifestation of him, even if it is some urn
Melvis of RTF (3:05:39 PM): It would at least bring closure to the whole thing
Melvis of RTF (3:05:49 PM): or some good semblance of it
Felix (3:07:16 PM): Personally...I think that if you love pops that much, you should make the move to find out who is wife is, make the call, visit her, and spend some time with her capturing her stories of your father. You can also tell a little about the kind of person your father is by the person(s) he chose to spend time with...
Felix (3:08:55 PM): BUT...it's not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn't do..
Melvis of RTF (3:09:26 PM): Nah nah... you're actually hitting everything I do want to do. It's really just finding out the right words when cold calling...
Felix (3:10:46 PM): You'll find the words. I'm tired of putting them in your mouth :-)
Melvis of RTF (3:10:53 PM): Heh... it's just all so new to me
Melvis of RTF (3:11:02 PM): I mean, I've dealt with other people coping with death
Melvis of RTF (3:11:13 PM): This is the first time I've dealt with it in my own bloodlines
Melvis of RTF (3:11:25 PM): At least within 3 degrees of separation or so
Felix (3:11:50 PM): You should at least want to know if your dad ever spoke of you to his wife.
Melvis of RTF (3:12:03 PM): Yeah. I always wondered...
Felix (3:12:50 PM): Maybe he has, and maybe she'd want to meet you.
Melvis of RTF (3:12:51 PM): Better late than never
Felix (3:13:39 PM): Yeah...you don't want to second guess yourself to the point where she passes on, and then you have no way of connecting to your father...
Melvis of RTF (3:13:48 PM): Here's the basic timetable
Melvis of RTF (3:14:05 PM): I should end up getting the certificate around the 2nd week of January
Melvis of RTF (3:14:27 PM): I'm headed out to Hawaii that same week
Melvis of RTF (3:14:43 PM): Once I'm back, we'll see if I can pin down Aida
Melvis of RTF (3:15:11 PM): If she's *gasp* willing to meet me... I'm guessing it'll happen in late February or so
Melvis of RTF (3:17:20 PM): A bender in memorium of Pops... that's the ticket *heh*
Felix (3:21:03 PM): well...nah...you're going to want to spend some serious time with her...stories, questions, anecdotes...and add up the years you want to know about your father...that's a LOT of time...
Melvis of RTF (3:21:29 PM): damn near 20 years
Felix (3:22:46 PM): 20 years of lost time...of memories about your father...
Felix (3:23:18 PM): and as long as she can share those memories with you about your father, your father will not be dead...
Felix (3:24:09 PM): in life, we DO a lot in order to accomplish mundane trivial things before we die, but it is in death and after death in memories that we will truly live...
Felix (3:26:01 PM): because it is in the level of care and detail that a person paints of us with stories from their memories and experiences with us that give us meaning.
Melvis of RTF (3:26:24 PM): Man, that's super deep
Felix (3:26:46 PM): not really, but if it makes you feel better...okay...
Melvis of RTF (3:27:02 PM): You've always been the master wordsmith
Felix (3:27:29 PM): which is just a kind way of saying master bullshitter...

Even reading over that again, I get chills.

So present day is here... I have the death certificate. Apparently he died of a heart attack. At least he was in a hospital and hopefully he had some loved one by his side. Now it's time for me to find the right words and make that reach out for contact. It won't be easy. Mainly because I still can't find the right words. But it'll have to be done. For Pops. For me.

Pops... wherever you are, here's a strike on lane 16 and a Coors for ya'. Love ya'.

And thank you, the reader, for reading this entire clusterfuck of a stream of consciousness. Soul-baring sure is a hell of a mental exercise. Go watch some Rick Astley videos on YouTube for some mental Prozac. =)

- M

Fri, Jan. 11th, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
vandalous

Wow - what an amazing, tragic, interesting read. You're really lucky you have good solid friends to turn to that don't act awkward when the real challenges of life come up. A SO is one thing but it's really nice to turn to someone that doesn't have an "obligation" to love and listen.

Best of luck to you as you work on finishing the Baltazar painting. I hope his ex-wife will open up to you.

Take care, bud. You're in my prayers...