11 years. It’s been 11 years.
On this day, 11 years ago, I lost my father to his lifelong battle with depression. March 4th, 1999 my father took his own life leaving his children behind to deal with their own broken hearts, their own feelings of guilt, and a life time of “what ifs”.
The day my father passed away had been a day like any other. Lorne and I were living in Daytona Beach at the time as he was working on his bachelor’s degree. I was working as a receptionist at an insurance company. The day was sunny and warm. My father-in-law was in town visiting. I arrived home from work and went into my bedroom to get cleaned up and ready to go out for dinner once Lorne got home from school. As I was piddling around in my room when the phone rang. It was my mom. What I expected to be a regular mother daughter phone call turned into a phone call I had never ,imagined, a phone call I will never forget. Instead of talking about my day, about what my family was up to like we normally would have, my mom told me that my father was dead. I don’t remember much about the actual conversation. I can’t remember exactly what she said, I can’t remember what I said. I remember feeling a very heavy pit form in my chest as my heart broke. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breath. I remember not being able to cry. I remember being worried about my brother and how he was taking the news. I remember asking about him. I remember not really knowing how I should feel or what I should say. I remember hearing my mom cry on the other end of the line and wanting nothing more than to be sitting next to her so she could hug me. I just wanted a hug from my mom.
My parents got divorced when I was 3 and my brother was 6 months old. I don’t remember living with my dad. My very first childhood memories occurred some time after when my mom, brother and I moved into an apartment together after the divorce. My brother and I spent time with my dad when we were younger. He would pick us up for weekend visits. I have good memories from those weekend visits. I remember playing outside in the yard of our farmhouse. I remember him taking me to my Grandma’s house and playing with farm animals. I remember him giving me a kitten for my 6th birthday, he brought it into the house tucked into the inside pocket of his leather jacket. As a child I enjoyed hanging out with my dad on those weekend visits. But my memories of my dad aren’t all good.
My father was a troubled soul. He was an alcoholic his whole life and during his last years he suffered from serious health complications that resulted from his alcoholism. My mom left my dad because he was abusive, not to us, but to her. My father also suffered from depression. I witnessed my father drinking around us, driving drunk and even a couple of times drinking while he was driving us. As a result of what I knew about my dad’s past and what I saw I made the choice as a teenager to cut off ties with my dad for my own sake. I figured one day, when I was older I’d have a chance to reconnect with him. As a teenager I didn’t have it in me to forgive my dad or to deal with the drama that he created in my life. It was easier for me to just ignore it all and pretend none of it happened.
What I never expected was that at 21 years old I would loose my father and any chance we may have had of reconnecting. What I never expected is that I would forever be haunted by a man I sadly never really knew, haunted by a million questions, a million “what ifs”.
For the last 11 years I have been dealing with the grief and pain I feel as a result of my father’s death in silence. Since everyone in my world knew that I had cut ties with my father and didn’t really have anything to do with him they all assumed that his death didn’t really affect me. they couldn’t have been more wrong.. And since I knew they all felt this way I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about how I was really feeling. Instead I’ve just grieved in silence.
I think about my dad everyday. I feel incredible guilt knowing that my actions and the lack of my presence in his life, in some way, contributed to his state of mind and ultimately his decision to take his own life. I feel guilty that I selfishly thought I would have all this time to get to know him so I wasted the time I did have. I feel sadness that I will never get to sit down and talk to my dad and tell him that I do love him and always have. I feel regret that he’ll never get to meet my daughter, his granddaughter. I feel angry that I will have to explain to my daughter one day why her grandpa isn’t around. I feel angry that my dad choose to leave this life instead of facing it. I feel sad that we are all here to deal with it and pick up the pieces of our hearts without our dad.
I look at pictures of my dad from my childhood, and I can see how proud he was to have me as a daughter and I can see how much he loved me. I hate that he may have died thinking that I didn’t love him. That breaks my heart all over again.
I do love you Dad. I love you and I miss you.