Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22nd, 2017

Friday, August 22nd, 1997. I had just completed my very first week of High School. As with most Freshman my biggest worries were about trying the newest acne cream and attempting to understand all of the changes happening inside of me as I navigated puberty. Although my home life wasn't perfect and I still struggled to appease my recently divorced parents, at my soul I knew I had a very charmed and blessed life. The summer was coming to a close, and I had just spent it with my Dad in a Nevada before boarding a plane back to Tennessee. It was a magical summer that culminated with a trip to Los Angeles to visit Knotts Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, and Disneyland. We had so many great memories and more laughs than any kid could dream of. When we got back to Tennessee I was hopeful that my parents also turned a corner. I overheard them on the phone and my Dad told my Mom that he was going to come visit us in Tennessee for the holidays. I remember her giggling on the phone and for a split second they seemed back to that lovey dovey couple that would make out and dance in the kitchen in front of us kids as we rolled our eyes at them and told them how gross they were. I vividly remember thinking that when Dad came, all of the wrong-doings of the past would magically go away and they would somehow get back together and we would all live happily ever after. We lived right down the street from my Aunt and Uncle and it wasn't unusual for us to spend lots of time at their house. My Aunt called the house phone and asked me to come up to her house and bring my younger sister. I really didn't think anything of it and away we went up the street. Katie kicked the back of my shoe- a pair of Adidas sandals with the black and white thick straps over the top- on the way up to Aunt Mary's house and I told her to go fuck herself. She said she was going to tell Aunt Mary when we got to her house and I told her to "go ahead, no one believes her anyway." I really regret that. I signed into Aunt Mary's living room computer on AOL dial up when I looked outside and saw my Mom walking in. It was strange that she was there so early, but I just continued on with the computer. When she came in I said hey and could tell something was off but just kept on surfing the very slow web. She asked my sister to come inside and told us the news. "Guys, you know I love you right? This may be the hardest things I've ever had to tell you. Your Dad is dead." People cried. Our local minister and his wife came in to attempt comforting words. I was absolutely frozen. The next few days, weeks, frankly years are mostly a blur. We flew back to Nevada where I got to see my big sister. She and I were absolutely pissed off. Katie, my younger sister, was emotional but Crystal and I were simply angry. For the record, my Father took his own life. He had battled with drug and alcohol addictions for my entire life, and most of his. He, while high on several different drugs, went into the garage and started an old vehicle and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was scheduled to go fishing the next day and had his bag fully packed, fishing lines already laid out with his tackle box ready to go. He left no note. That was it. In a matter of seconds he changed the trajectory of my entire life by making a selfish decision and not thinking clearly. I say this because as I've gotten older, and become a parent I have a harder and harder time grasping how he could give up on his own life and children in this way. I know that my Dad loved and adored me, but I can see how the power of drugs and alcohol can steal away a persons true self. If you are battling with addiction, let my story be the catalyst to want to help yourself. You mean more to the people in your life than words can express and you are not alone! As we prepared for his funeral, my Mom had to switch the days so that his viewing didn't happen on my Birthday. So much of my childhood Was stolen on that day. I craved acceptance and acknowledgement from teachers, friends and family, but nothing can fill in the void of your Father. I am thankful for those that did step in and help; I'm not sure I would've made it here without them. When I think of all of the big things he has missed it blows my mind- weddings, grandchildren, graduations. But it's the small things that really hurt the most. Being able to call him up and ask for simple advice or just shoot the breeze. He was a kind and funny man. I see so much of myself in him- a super hard work ethic, a super silly side that loves to sing even if we aren't great at it, passionate love for those closest to us and passionate rage when someone wrongs us. I've had him out of my life far longer than I had him in it, but today I wanted to remind him how much I loved him. After all, without him, there would be no me. Raise (just one) a glass of Bacardi and Dr. Pepper to my Daddy today and try to remember there is a pot of gold at the end of rainbow.

1 comment:

  1. I will never forget that day. It's crystal clear to me, all of it. I never knew about your language though, or we'd have had a talk. Ha ha. I just knew that these two (three) kids who had been my practice kids since I was only 17 were gonna need a lifetime full of love and help from us.
    I know it's never been perfect, but I pray you still feel loved, encouraged, accepted, and how proud of you I am.
    You're an amazing man, aj. You're role as Harper's daddy is to be admired. Thank you for never choosing selfish when you can choose love, and for never choosing the wrong path when you so easily could have used the crutch your dad provided. You got all of his good qualities. I love you Aj! I'm so sorry for the loss you guys have suffered in life