“Sometimes, it just hits me, you know, like a brick wall,” she said. He’s not ever going to call me again. He’s never going to dance with me at my wedding – hell, I’m not ever getting married anyway, but we’ll never dance. Sometimes that just hits me and it really just sucks.” I tried to swallow down the lump in my throat and furiously willed the tears to know their place below my eyelids and stay there. Everything she said, she said with candid honesty, and it tugged a particular string in my heart that made my whole head ache with missing my own.
“Can I have that hug now?” In moments like these, I drop the past 15 years or so of our lives and she again is “Aunt Lori” to me. We hug, and I hold tight because I want her to know how fully I understand.
I have three fathers, and before you go judging anyone or making any assumptions, let me just say that in my family, we tend to fight for love, fight over love, and most importantly, love for life – especially because there are children involved and there’s just no point in living in a war zone when you don’t have to.
One, he is my father. He gave me life, raised me for much of my childhood, and I call him Dad.
The other, he is my mother’s husband, the man I call when I need help, because he is the one I have always, and know I can unequivocally count on. He has chosen to love me, and that takes a commitment stronger than obligation.
And then there is my daddy, whom I have absolutely no right to call my dad, but he has given me that privilege anyway. We have clung to the fringes of each other’s lives, barely keeping in touch but I hope he thinks of me at least half as often as I think of him.
I haven’t seen in him in over a year and a half now, and I’ve talked to him on less occasions than I could count on my hands. I desperately try to remember his face because I have a very real fear of never seeing it again. His wide smile, his crinkly eyes, and a jawline that could take a pretty powerful right hook and capture any pretty lady’s attention. He had a face that matched his demeanor perfectly; sometimes that was a good thing, and sometimes it got him into trouble. He was good at finding trouble, but sometimes, following one’s heart doesn’t always mean taking the straight and narrow path. One thing I can always be proud of him for: he has walked through many shadowy valleys, and still continues to climb each mountain he confronts, still reaching for the summit of forgiveness.
I know there are things in his life that a perfect stranger could guess better about him than I could. In the last seven years, we have seen very little of each other. I have never seen his home, have never stepped foot in the state he lives in. There are miles and people between us that make it difficult to be more than a few text messages passing each other through the cloud every few weeks. I couldn’t honestly say what he has been up to, what he has been doing with his life for the last five years, at least. It makes me feel ashamed of myself, and it makes me sad.
When did we become so little to each other? When did I stop being worthy of honesty? I was dropped from the “need to know” list when he left, or maybe when I left, allowing a negative person in my life to prevent me from mending that rift between us. Then he was gone.
I remember calling the house he lived in, wildly hoping that I would catch him as he was walking out the door. I could just let the apologies tumble out of my mouth and I could purge all the bad feelings I’d let fester for months. I carried anger like hot coals in my own damn hands. Like this was going to make it all better – and I’d close with something congenial and promising like an “I’m going to have to come see you sometime!” line. Hell, maybe I really would! Stupid me, he had gone to the airport hours ago. I folded myself up onto the couch and cried. I bawled like a child who had left something in the rain to be ruined. Now I understood the power of regret, and there was nothing more that I want to CTRL+Z in my life than the mistake of not saying sorry.
I missed my dad something fierce for a long time. When we finally spoke again, we were better.
But something happened last summer that changed everything. I don’t know what happened. It happened so quickly and so viciously that I can’t even put the pieces back together to try to explain. It changed how I allowed certain people to make me feel, and it definitely changed my opinion on allowing their existence to affect my own within the circle of people we still call family. But it changed the existence, and there are gaps in my life where I had to give them their pound of flesh. Several pounds, actually, seeing as there were six brothers and sisters involved that I’ve subsequently lost, and I’m sure they’re quite grown by now.
We both came out of last summer with some bumps and bruises, my dad and I. But I will never know the extent of his because I haven’t had a straight answer in… oh, many, many moons. So many moons it would make your head spin.
But I hope he’s okay. I hope he is better. I know that other children of addicts and alcoholics can understand what I mean by my use of the word “better.” You know, having a good day. Or maybe he’s having a good week, or maybe he’s even having a good month or a few. Maybe he’s taking life One Day at a Time. Whatever he’s doing, I’m proud of him, and I miss him.