Gone But Never Forgotten

Author’s note: When growing up in the 1980s and 1990s it was way different than the 2000s. You had more jobs and duties to fulfill at home. Another thing is you had to work hard for what you got. I chose this story about my father, Brian, losing his father, Dennis Sr., for several reasons. One being that he lost his father when he was in his 20s and had to step up for his family. Also, I wrote about this topic because I wanted to understand how losing his father made Brian the hardworking person he is today. It also will let me learn more about my grandfather since I never met him. Lastly, this story allows me to gain more information on why my family is as tight as they are.

It was a warm summer day; the sun was shining and the sky was bright blue. Brian was working in Bear, Delaware, as a construction worker when suddenly a phone went off. He got an unexpected phone call, and he looked down with a confused look. It was another construction worker, Kent.

He answered the phone wondering what he needed. “What’s up?”

Kent replied in a miserable tone, “It’s your father; he was admitted to the hospital just now.”

He stood there speechless wondering about his father’s health. Brian stayed on the phone with Kent for a little bit, then left work immediately to be home with his family and friends.

Dennis Ritchey Sr. and his wife, Emma Ritchey, had three children: Dennis Jr., Brian and Tanya. They lived in McVeytown on a quiet farm where trees and fields surrounded them. Brian worked in Richmond, Virginia, as a construction worker, along with his brother, while his father was a construction foreman. He stayed in a company house where other workers would stay. When he had off on the weekends he would come home and visit his mother and sister. Brian would go up to camp with his father to spend time with him, until a sudden unexpected disease hit the family. In 1994, Dennis Sr. was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He went through chemotherapy and one surgery to get rid of the tumor from his esophagus. He was doing well but still had to go through chemotherapy once in a while.

During this time period everyone just moved on with their lives. They would spend time together as a family whenever they could, by eating delicious home cooked meals or watching movies together. Dennis Sr. was a good cook who made many of the meals up at camp until he got sick. Brian and Dennis Sr. would have conversations about work and how their lives were. During these conversations they would not talk about the cancer because Dennis Sr. would rather focus on his son. In 1996, the cancer suddenly came back worse than ever.

One day Dennis Sr. wasn’t feeling the greatest. Emma decided to take him to the doctor just in case something serious was happening. While there, the doctor admitted him into the hospital immediately. The doctor decided to have a feeding tube put in so Dennis Sr. could eat correctly and get proper nutrients. He was informed by the doctor that he would have to stay in the hospital for a couple days. The staff at the hospital ran several tests and found some terrible news. Meanwhile, in the blank room with white walls sat Emma and Dennis Sr. hoping for some good news.

The doctor came in the room with a sympathetic look on his face, “The cancer is spreading all through your system; the chemotherapy is no longer working and we have to stop further treatments.” Dennis Sr. and Emma just looked at the doctor and didn’t say a word. While in the hospital Dennis Sr. sat waiting to go home to see his children.

One sunny morning with barely any clouds in the sky, Dennis Sr. was discharged from the hospital. He went home to spend his final moments with the people he loved. He spent his days resting and spending time with family and friends. He had enjoyed going up to camp with his children in the previous years, but now all Dennis Sr. could do was watch movies and hang around the house due to the cancer making him ill. Suddenly, one night Dennis Sr. was acting different and didn’t want to do much.

On a chilly Easter Sunday, March 30, 1997, the family gathered at home to celebrate the holiday. Throughout the day Brian could tell something was wrong with his father. Eventually Brian left to go back to work in Richmond, Virginia. After five hours when he arrived he called his mother to check up on his father.

“Hi mom. How’s Dad?” Brian asked his sobbing mother.

“Your father isn’t doing well,” Emma replied.

“Call the doctor and take him to the hospital,” Brian recommended.

“Your father doesn’t want to go to the hospital,” explained Emma.

Brian jumped into his 1991 Pontiac Sunbird and sped away trying to get home as quickly as possible. During the drive Brian had a feeling his father wasn’t going to be there when he went home. When he arrived, he was shocked to see who was there and who wasn’t.

His brother, Dennis Jr., and his brother-in-law, Kim, were there. He didn’t even need to hear the words from his brother; he could tell by their faces.

Dennis Jr. looked at his brother and said, “Dad passed away unexpectedly.”

Brian stood there with a blank look on his face processing that his father was no longer there. Also, the fact that his father was only 55 years old when he passed away. Brian’s mother, Emma, was with her daughter, Tanya, for the night. Emma needed to spend time away from the house where her husband took his last breath. Brian, Dennis Jr., and Kim stood there not saying a word. The next morning, Brian went down to say his final goodbyes to his father. Then the funeral services came next in the following days.

Throughout the next couple weeks, the Ritcheys dealt with his death in different ways. The first step was that Emma moved out of the house where all the memories were. Emma lost her husband in the house, and she couldn’t stay there alone. Instead she moved into a trailer to start new beginnings. Brian went back to work while still dealing with how his father withered away like a flower. Through the next couple months Brian kept his emotions to himself. He made sure to step up for his mother and siblings at a young age so they were taken care of. Dennis Jr. and Tanya went back to work and taking care of their families and their young children. Brian made sure to use his father’s advice on a daily basis, including to step up and own your responsibilities at a young age. From losing his father he realized that life could be terrible, not everyone lives to an old age and you have to step up for others. Everyone moved on from this experience by taking time and joining together as a family.

Since then on March 30 every year it brings back many emotions. They deal with these sad feelings by everyone joining together as a family to get past the rough times. In the following years after the death of Dennis Sr., Brian came back from Virginia to take care of his newborn child, Jena. Tanya had a child named Sarah, who was just four days younger than Jena and was taking care of her older children Zach and Chris. Dennis Jr. was working and taking care of his wife and children, Johnny and Ashley. Brian makes sure to pass on his father’s advice to his daughter, nephews and nieces on a daily basis.

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