I have regrets

Don’t tell me you’re one of those goths.

I don’t know what it meant to him, but I remember what it meant to me. I was in the height of my teenage angst and experiencing, perhaps for the first time the depths to which my depression could bring me. To cope with my distress I resorted to cutting myself; I was compelled to see the blood well up in the canyons I carved deep in my thighs. I listened to dark, brooding music, and I surrounded myself with people who did and felt the same. And though it may have been for lack of better word or explanation, we identified as goth.

At 14 I still had no relationship with my father and had long since given up expecting one. But maybe in some last ditch effort to find myself in him, or perhaps simply to spite my mother, I picked up the phone and called. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those goths;” my father rejected me once more.

I think it was that visit, where we sat in silence and discussed nothing meaningful, where we shared nothing at all, that I decided the rejection was mutual.

Over the next few years I visited him sporadically at his rundown apartment on the bad side of town.Once I knocked on his door and asked him for percocets. He raised his eyebrows, but invited me in and let his buddies offer me hash. He reprised old stories of snorting cocaine and staring out the windows, paranoid the cops would find him.

I refused to kiss him goodbye. I scoffed when he requested my phone number. I gave it to him anyway, though I was certain he would not call; I was right.

I brought a boyfriend or two to meet him. I referred to these rare introductions as “showing them my dad.” His absence still made me bitter and the sight of his worn face did not soften me.

I joked that I was  stopping by to make sure he was still alive. But I said it curtly. I thought that my  flippancy and steeliness were a sign of my strength; that my unaffectedness was warranted and just.

But now, two years after his sudden death, I am afraid that I hurt him.

The last time I saw him I flew 5,000 miles across an ocean to tell them to pull the plug. I am no closer to understanding him now than I was the day I signed his body away.

I do not know the last time I told him I loved him.

I do not know if I even did love him.

I do not know where his ashes are.

I have regrets.

 

 

Advertisements

He Loves You in his Own Way. (Part 1)

Scene:

Baystate Medical Center, July 2014

I am having trouble meeting the gaze of the doctors as they tell me what I already know: my father is as good as dead. I study my hands, hoping that I am adequately playing the part of Distraught Daughter.

The truth is that I had made my decision before I even found myself in that too-bright conference room. Still, I politely listen as these strangers in lab coats detail my father’s drunken fall, the neighbors finding him the next morning, and his helicopter flight to the hospital. Doctors detail his head injury and spew trivia and percentages to which I am numb. As they subtly urge me to end what’s left of my father’s now-robotic life, I feel certain that they can’t imagine the complexities this situation presents to an estranged daughter who has crossed an ocean solely to do so.

“He is gone,” they reassure me.

But he has always been gone.

The doctors take their leave and I find myself looking into my uncle’s fatigued face. He is worn from pacing the hospital corridors, waiting for a niece whom he does not know, and listening to the mechanical beat of his brother’s heart monitor.

“You know what my choice is, right?” I ask carefully.

“I should hope so!” he says a bit too quickly, before trying to console me, “This is just a tragic accident. I don’t believe that he was drunk. It doesn’t make sense. We all know your father had a drinking problem, but even if he was drinking the night before, he was fine! The coffee pot was on so he was probably running across the street to the store and he fell!”

When I don’t respond he again emphasizes, “This is just a really tragic accident.”

I let out a long sigh and turn away from my uncle’s ashen face. His voice, identical to my father’s in its cadence and tone, seeps through my skin and sits like a stone in my stomach.

More urgently now, “Your father was a good man. If he had nothing but a piece of bread for himself, he would have broken it in half and given it to a stranger.”

I turn to him and try to keep the bile from my words: “Oh yeah? And what did he give to his daughter?”

As I leave the hospital I glance into his room once more.
I do not know this man.