I have one memory of my father. It was at my sister’s ninth birthday party. It was held at an old roller-skating rink with dingy eggshell-white brick walls; the kind of place where the whole building reeks of old roller-skates worn too many times by people that probably have foot fungus. I was wearing a red onesie, with untamable, curly-short hair. When he came in I was on one side of the hallway and he was on the other. I saw him and I went running towards him screaming,” Daddy!” He must have been running also, because I didn’t have to run very far before he scooped me up into his arms.
Someone took a picture at that point; I know because I’ve seen it hidden in boxes I wasn’t supposed to see. I knew no hurt then, only love and I loved my father so very much. By now the image has faded some in my mind’s eye, but his smile and the love I felt is still very clear and vivid. I guess, maybe, that’s why it hurts so much, because I knew his love. Now there’s this hole in my heart where his love and his presence should be. Time will never heal that wound
My dad died a short time later and I spent most of my childhood and early twenties angry at my dad. But, I’ve grown up a lot since then and I’m no longer angry with my father. I just feel this immense sadness when I think he felt he had to die. My uncle took me to my dad’s gravesite, for the first time in 2004. It was awkward because my dad doesn’t have a gravestone, you know? He really amounted to nothing, even in death; his life has amounted to a grave without his name. I wonder how deep of a depression he had to have been in, how alone and forsaken he had to feel to think he had no one to turn to. Most suicide attempts say they felt the deep longing to live immediately after they take those pills, kick over the chair, or jump off that bridge. It’s sad to think my father also felt the longing to live in his final moments of life. His death has left so many “what ifs?”
Realizing I am not like my father, that my family does not see me as a failure has taken time, tears, and many falls. It’s in getting up from the fall and persevering that separates me from my father. Having and seeing in my family the emptiness my dad has left behind is all I’ll ever need to have the determination to keep going. I’ve learned to be grateful to my father for giving me life and I’m going to live. Because of my father I am both broken and whole. I’m caring and understanding of other’s plights, but above all else, I’m fiercely driven to make a difference, to leave something more than pictures and broken hearts behind.