By Carissa Marie
My father stopped calling me on the important days many, many years ago. Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthdays. But that has never stopped me, now a twenty-five year-old woman, from feeling disappointed every year I don’t hear from him.
My mother was sixteen when she gave birth to me. Within a year of my entrance into the world she kicked my father out with the prayer that he would sober up. Eventually he did, but by that time she had moved on so he started another family.
For a while I used to visit him every weekend. He’d take my sister and I fishing. He taught us how to hook the worm, unhook the fish, make a fire, and cook the freshly caught fish over the embers. He also taught us that if you put a beer can in the fire and poke it with a stick it will collapse into itself. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face when I told her how Daddy had me pour his beer into an empty dunkin’ donuts cup while he drove. I reminisce on this time with longing and fear. Those were the good years.
Those glory days ended when my dad fell back into abusing drugs on top of his alcoholism. I’ve never had any of my questions answered about his relapse. Once, when I was fourteen and he was staying with my grandmother he pulled me into the guest bedroom and showed me all the certificates he had earned in jail. He told me how proud of me he was and how I should be proud of him because he was finally sober. Soon after he passed out drunk on the couch. I cleaned the beer bottles from his room while he slept and made him French toast when he woke up. We never talked about it.
The last time I saw him was on my grandmother’s deathbed. I was so overwhelmed with emotion I hardly processed his experience. My family was blaming her death on pills and I couldn’t hear them. I wanted him to explain it to me. Instead he disappeared again. In the last 5 years there have been rumors of more jail, a stabbing, another baby, and recently he’s been spotted in my small hometown.
You might be thinking, okay so what’s the point? Why write about a man who has seemed to come up short when I need him the most? The point is I still love and miss him every single day. Beyond that I admire him. He’s my dad. It is incredibly painful to not have him in my life because of this disease. His addiction has affected me every step of the way. When I go out with my friends and have a couple drinks more than I should I wake up with a pit in my stomach. I think, “Am I an alcoholic?” “Do I need help?” Every single decision I make that any other twenty-five year-old might brush off as experimenting or growing pains weighs on me. All of this is the part of me that is part of him.
Addiction feels like the monster under my bed. I know it’s there, it’s always been there, and it will forever live there. I know this monster could come for me. It’s in my blood. When I see comments posted on newspaper articles about the heroin epidemic like: Stupid is as stupid does or Darwinism at it’s best! I think to myself “Hey! That’s my father those people are talking about!” He’s a part of me. He’s half of me.
I carry my phone with me everywhere; to class, to the elementary schools I work in, to the theater I perform in, always with the same thought: “Will today be the day I get that call? The call that he’s dead.” Or maybe it’ll be the call from him, apologizing for all these years. I wake every morning in a grey space. Part of me wishes he would die so I can finally let go and move on. But the other part, the other part of me hopes I’ll hear that he’s sober and wants to take me fishing. In this blurred moment, first thing in the morning, in bed, I know all I can do is meet the monster head on with forgiveness and love.