This page is for my “other stuff” some serious, some fictional, some venting…whatever…just not silly stuff.
The following is part of a writing exercise I’m sharing with my nephew who enjoys writing and is very good at it. I have a little book called The Writer’s Block and it is chock full of little snippets, single words, and suggetions to help you start writing. So I’m going to post something from the book at random, and we will write about it and post it up in our notes here on Facebook. Little experiment that I thought might be a little fun for us. Anyone who is reading this is more than welcome to jump on board and write along with us.
I will post the snippet from the book at the end of the story as to not really give it away….Enjoy!
Ida imagined herself taking one final drag from her cigarette before putting it out, she’d smoked for years and missed the crackling sound of the cigarette being crushed in the ashtray. She wished she could still smoke as she raised her handkerchief to her mouth to catch the spittle of a cough that was definitely related to the smoking. Today was a big day and she was anxious to get on the road and get a move on for the date of a life time. She had waited so long for this day to arrive and now that it was finally here she wanted everything to be perfect.
She cocked her head to the right listening intently as she heard a dog down the street bark. She stood up, smoothed out the creases on her pink dress and straightened out her matching pink hat. White arm length gloves in hand and small white clutch purse, she was ready. She slowly made her way to the window hoping her ride was pulling up in the driveway. She let out a big sigh when she saw that the dog was barking at a squirrel searching the grass for morsels of whatever it is that squirrels search for.
Years ago she often relied on taxis to get her where she needed to go but she hadn‘t been out of the house in years. Today she was relying on a taxi and a bus, such an adventure, a bus, not something she did very often. Years ago she had taken a bus to Oklahoma to visit a friend in the hospital. She rode that bus for 12 hours. Enduring every stop along the way, and Lord knows that bus stopped everywhere. That bus was so old and rickety she felt every bump of the Texas back roads that led her to Oklahoma and her Dear Friend in the hospital.
She glanced up at the small clock that hung over the ancient stove in the kitchen. Where was that Taxi? She had called for it almost an hour ago, she was ready and she needed to go now. She couldn’t miss this date, no sir she had waited years for this, and there was NO stopping her now. She dreamed of this day, over and over again. For years now she played this day in her head, certainly the circumstances had changed over the years, that happened with time. Things change and because of those changes her fantasy of the day changed along with them. While she was a bit disappointed with the way this special date had changed she was still very excited, so much so she shuttered a bit thinking about what awaited her. She giggled quietly as her imagination ran wild with thoughts of what this day had in store for her.
She glanced again at the clock, three minutes had passed since the last time she looked. “Oh Sugar” she said under her breath. She needed to catch the bus in 40 minutes or there was no hope of making her date. Busses were so unreliable, stopping everywhere in Texas along the way to getting you anywhere. She learned that the hard way. She rode that bus years back for 12 hours only to arrive at the hospital 3 hours after her friend had died. She sobbed in the hallway outside her room, just broke down and wept like she had never wept before. Funny thing is, she found herself weeping not for her dearly departed friend but for the 12 hours she wasted on a bus that stopped everywhere in Texas just to get you to where you needed to go. She hated busses because of that, but sometimes buses were a necessary evil, and certainly to make her date today it was a necessary evil she would endure. She was prepared to stop everywhere in Texas just to get to where she needed to go. The biggest date of her life.
She heard the taxi before it even turned into her driveway, the dog barked again, but this time she knew it wasn’t barking at a squirrel, she heard the horn sound announcing the Taxi’s arrival. Finally her journey was beginning . She stood in front of her door, closed her eyes, folded her hands across her stomach, as if holding the excitement back from bursting out of her belly button, and took a deep breath. She coughed a little as she breathed deep, and then placed a glove on each hand, straightened her hat again and opened the front door.
The Youngman behind the wheel didn’t even glance her way, he was busy fooling with one of those cell phones all the young people had these days. He sat behind the wheel, pushing furiously at the buttons doing Lord knows what these kids did these days. She slowly made her way down the steps of her front porch and out to the taxi. She noticed that the driver had already opened the door for her, she was happy that chivalry hadn’t died sometime in the last few decades. “Hello” she said as she sat down in the back seat. The Youngman only acknowledged her by getting out of the car and slamming her door closed, he appeared angry. She told him to take her to the bus station, he put the car in gear with the hand still holding the cell phone, the car lurched forward and her journey, and the date of a lifetime had begun. She over heard the driver yelling into the phone in very broken English but really couldn’t understand what he was saying
The ride to the bus station was quick, she looked out the window and the landscape passing her by, wanting so bad to tell the Youngman all about her journey and the biggest date of her life, but he never stopped pushing on the buttons of his cell phone. He laughed out loud a few times as he glanced at the screen of the phone. She could only imagine what was so funny, she laughed too. His day wasn’t going to be as exciting as hers, there was no doubt about that. She was on a journey now and the date of a lifetime was just a bus ride away. The taxi came to a stop at the back of a long line of taxis at the bus station and the Youngman still speaking frantically into the phone walked away from the taxi, he appeared to be looking around the bus station. She opened her own door and began to walk towards him. She even planned on tipping him even though he was rude. She was in a good mood and no rude Youngman would ruin this day for her. She approached him and he turned her back to her, still alking on the phone. “Hmmm” she said as she shrugged her shoulders, this day was getting better by the moment, she just got a free taxi ride. She turned and looked at all the buses that waited to stop everywhere in Texas to take you wherever it was you needed to go.
Bus 506 was shiny silver with tinted windows, nothing like the bus she had taken years before to see her dieing (dead) friend in Oklahoma. She struggled to get up the steps of the bus to the nice man sitting behind the wheel . Unlike the rude Youngman that drove the taxi this gentleman was handsome and friendly, middle aged she guessed but so polite. This was more like it. She ambled down the narrow aisle and found a seat in the middle of the bus. There were only 5 other people on the bus. A young woman who appeared to be pregnant sat towards the back, an gentleman she guessed to be about her age she had passed coming down the aisle dozed with his head against the window. A Youngman with a guitar case sat across the aisle from her, she smiled briefly as she made eye contact with him as she sat in her seat he didn‘t smile back but rubbed his forearms a bit as if he was cold from the busses air conditioner. A big burly man sat two rows behind her already snoring loudly and the bus driver made 5.
She settled in for the 12 hour ride South East to Huntsville, she was so excited she glanced at her watch, it was 730 AM, if the trip did take 12 hours, her date wasn’t until 9 PM, that would leave her plenty of time to get there and settled in. She giggled again with excitement, she heard the bus doors close, the air break release and the bus began it’s journey, traveling East on I20 and then South on I45, traveled into the hot Texas summer day she drifted off as she watched the lines of the road fly by her.
The bus made its stops, everywhere in Texas along the way to getting her to where she was going. There was a steady exchange of passengers but the bus never got crowded and no one ever sat next to her. This disappointed her because she wanted so badly to talk about her date, the one she had been waiting for what seemed like forever.
The bus continued the journey and as she dozed she dreamed and wondered what this date would be like. Would people be happy? Would anyone be sad? Would she hear anything? Would anyone even notice her? Would her date see her and know why she was there? She giggled again with excitement, so long she had waited.
The bus pulled into the station in Huntsville, she glanced again at her watch and saw it was even earlier then she anticipated, she was there by 7 PM, she had plenty of time and so she decided to walk the two blocks to where she was meeting her date. She didn’t move so well these days and it took her nearly 2 hours to walk the 2 blocks. She sat on the benches that lined the way and watched people pass her by. One time a young girl sat next to her but paid no attention to her. She looked over at her and saw she was wearing headphones and listening to some music. She didn’t talk to her and she didn’t acknowledge her even sitting on the bench.
Further on she could see the large gates that led into the area where her date waited. She had no trouble getting in, she just walked right up to the gates and followed several other people into the building. She made her way into the dimly lit room and saw about 20 other people in there, many of them sitting quietly keeping to themselves, several others talking, a couple more talking on cell phones. One was taking notes as they spoke to a woman who she could see was crying. Ida sat down, took a deep breath and waited.
She didn’t mind waiting now, she was here and after all she had waited this long, what was a few more minutes. The room grew still and everyone took their seats, the lights got a little dimmer and the curtains opened. Her date was finally about to begin.
John walked into the room escorted by several other people, he laid down on the gurney like he was instructed to do. The straps were pulled tight and he struggled to see if he recognized anyone through the glass, he felt the needle go in to his arm and the warden ask if he had any last words. He said “no” and the warden nodded to his right.
Ida stood up now, straightened out her pink dress and hat and walked to the window. She took a deep breath just as she reached the window and looked straight into Johns eyes and smiled.
The chemicals began to take effect and John felt himself slipping away, he glanced to the window and saw a woman in a pink dress, wearing a pink hat with white gloves on and holding a white clutch purse. She seemed familiar, he looked into her eyes and saw her smiling at him. It was her she was here with him, John recognized her and in that last brief second he had of consciousness remembered that she was the woman he had killed 22 years earlier.
Ida turned, walked out of the prison and faded into the Texas night.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections more than one hundred people have registered on a waiting list to see an execution…Write about one of them.
I know it says Florida, but as I was writing this Texas just kept popping into my mind as I visualized Ida on the bus, I didn’t go into great detail in many descriptions as I wanted to make this a story that wouldn’t take forever to read. Originally the Ghost thing was no where in my mind as I started writing this but came to me towards the end and I went back and changed a few things to get to her being the ghost he sees as he dies. I guess Halloween has me thinking that way.
Not one of my greatest short stories but just right for this time of year as we get closer to Halloween. It is definately a play on one of those GREAT scary stories we used to tell around the campfire as kids.
Henry was flying a kite on a beach where the water was as blue as Raspberry ice, there was no one else on the beach as the purple kite pulled against the string he was holding. The kite was pulling hard begging him to let more string out, to let it soar higher and further away. Henry remembers looking around on the beach and thinking it was odd he was flying a purple kite on an empty beach when suddenly “Thump” a coconut hit him in the head and he could hear someone calling his name and then “Thump” another one and again someone calling his name. Henry looked up towards the kite and could see that the sky had become dark and the kite he was flying was moving away from him, further and further into the dark sky above.
Henry opened his eyes and the darkness of the room he was in was only broken by the faint glow of the digital clock on his night stand beside his bed. “Thump” there it was again only this time he didn‘t hear his name, he was slowly coming to the realization that there was no coconut hitting him in the head, there was no beach and there certainly wasn’t a purple kite. Henry realized he was dreaming and the thumps he was hearing jarred him from a dream that defied explanation and the significance of a purple kite on an empty beach was not an area Henry wanted to explore. “Man that kite has something to do with my childhood I’m sure of it“, he thought to himself. “Nope not going down that road“. He glanced over to the clock and realized it was only 2:47 AM, “Shit” he said under his breath, “I’ve got another 3 hours of sleep.” He rolled over onto his back hoping that he could fall back to sleep quickly and forgetting all about the Thump that woke him up in the first place. As he began to doze he thought he heard a familiar voice calling his name, but it was too late sleep took over and Henry didn’t dream.
6 AM the alarm sounded stirring Henry from his dreamless sleep and telling him to get up and start his day. Henry remembered an alarm clock his sister had when she was a little girl, a Raggedy Ann and Andy Alarm that went off every morning “Andy, Andy Please Get Up It’s Time To Wake Our Friend” “Okay Ann, I’m Awake, let’s shout it once again”. We were set to wake you, and here we are to say. Please Get Up and Brush your teeth and start your happy day.” Henry recited this every morning after he rolled over to shut of his screeching hell demon of an alarm clock. It reminded him of good times, perhaps even purple kites.
Henry lived alone now, his wife had been gone for 3 years and so he walked around the house in only his underwear and t-shirt. He stumbled into the bathroom and caught a glimpse of an odd looking man as he walked by the mirror. Henry stopped and looked at the odd man. A man with 3 days beard growth and a weekend of hard drinking etched into his face. Henry had trouble coming to the realization that this was who he’d become. “Damn, I’ve got to take better care of myself”. he thought as he stood over the toilet to relieve himself. “Where’s Sasha” was his next thought. Sasha was his beagle and she was usually right there on the bed when the alarm goes off anxious to be fed and petted. Henry and his wife had got Sasha years before and Sasha stayed when Henry’s wife had gone. She had access to the outside through a Doggie Door he had installed when they first got her, she must be out early this morning.
Henry needed coffee and after he took care of his business upstairs it was the next thing on his morning agenda. He entered the hallway and headed down towards the stairs that led to downstairs and his blessed coffee. Suddenly Henry caught the whiff of something extremely unpleasant, something musty, old, rotting. As he got to the top of the steps he could see brownish red stains on the first three steps leading up from the living room, in fact he could see the same color stains on the rug in the living room as he walked down the stairs. Sasha wasn’t any where to be found. The smell was much stronger the further he descended the steps. “Oh Christ!” he yelled ’What the fuck did you do Sasha!” Sasha wasn’t in the house. Strange enough that this smell was not all to unfamiliar to Henry, he had smelled it before and it was just as bad the last time.
Henry put his hand over his nose and mouth and ran towards the back door. He was determined to open the door and windows to get the stench out of the house as quickly as possible. Sasha must have killed something and brought it into the house, or dug something up. Either way she was going to be in big trouble. As Henry ran across the floor towards the door he stepped in one of the stains and slipped, putting his hand behind him to brace his fall his hand landed in the stain. He felt it was wet and thick. “Fuck” he yelled.
He opened the back door and called for Sasha, she didn’t come. Henry walked into the back yard looking for Sasha and he heard her whimper from underneath the deck. Henry called to her and she wouldn’t come out. He got down on his hand and knees and try to coax her out. Still she cowered in the corner, he could see her shaking. “It’s alright sweetie, I’m not mad, I don’t know what the hell you got into but we’ll clean it up.” Sasha didn’t move she just cowered and sulked further into the corner. “God Damnit, Sasha!” he yelled as he crawled towards her under the deck. “Come on girl, let’s get some breakfast.” Henry crawled towards Sasha and finally was able to grab her by the collar and pulled her out towards him. As he grabbed her color he felt the wet, thick slimy feel of the substance that was on the carpet inside. Sasha was covered in it and she smelled like rotting fish. “Holy Shit Dog, you stink!” Henry said.
After spraying Sasha down with the hose outside, and searching the backyard for the carcass of whatever Sasha killed or whatever garbage she got into and not finding anything, Henry went inside to clean up. He searched high and low and couldn’t find a thing. He cleaned up the rug and steps and sprayed the entire house down with Lysol, the smell was better but not gone. Henry glanced towards the basement door, he hated the basement, hated all basements in fact, had since he was a little boy when his brother had locked him in it for 3 hours when he was supposed to be watching him while his parents were out. His brother terrorized him for those 3 hours and Henry has had a fear of basements since then. But Henry could see a stain on the carpet in front of the basement door and he knew he had to get over his fear and just take a look.
Henry called for Sasha, “Come on girl, let’s go check the basement, maybe you didn’t get into something, maybe something…” “NO” that was a silly thought nothing was coming from the basement, his irrational silly childhood fears were once again grabbing hold of him. “Come on Sasha.” But Sasha was having no part of it.
Henry opened the door to the basement slowly, he hadn’t been down there in almost three years, well since his wife left really. He just couldn’t get over his fear of the basement and certainly never wanted to go down there by himself. But now because of the mess in the house and the smell he had to find the source but Henry already knew.
Henry turned on the light and slowly walked down the steps to the basement, the smell was overwhelming and Henry gagged a few times. He could see the same brown stains on the basement floor as well as on the steps of the basement. Henry went half way down and quickly glanced around the basement. He saw his washer and dryer there that he hadn’t used in 3 years because of his fear. He went to a laundry mat since his wife left. He saw the old freezer that they kept down there it had been left running for 3 years without being opened because Henry was afraid to go into the basement. Henry looked over to the old storage closet they had in the basement. He had stored some old baggage and clothes in there a few years earlier when his wife left, he saw that the door was still closed. Henry turned and ran upstairs slamming the basement door behind him. Henry leaned up against the basement door with his back against it heaving, trying desperately to catch his breath. That smell, could the freezer have stopped working and all that food in there gone bad. Yes, that’s what it was the freezer had gone bad and the smell was just now making its way upstairs. Maybe an animal had got into the freezer and somehow brought the rotten food upstairs. Henry ran these thoughts through his mind, but Henry knew. He knew what the smell was.
Suddenly from behind him Henry heard a Thump, loud at the bottom of the basement steps and he heard his name being called. “Henry” and another Thump, coming up further, ‘Henry” “Oh my God NO, Henry thought, I must be crazy, my mind is playing tricks on me.” Thump, “Henry” coming up the steps, closer, Thump “Henry” “who are you!” Henry screamed, but Henry knew who it was. Thump, “Henry” The voice was gravely and horrible, sickening but familiar and suddenly it was behind the door where Henry stood with his back against it. He could hear the dripping coming from whatever was behind the door, and the groans from its throat. Henry screamed as the voice said “Open the door Henry, Open the door.” Henry turned towards the door, the stench coming from behind the door was the same stench he had smelled 3 years earlier. Henry, not able to run and compelled to open the door flung it open and there standing in front of him staring at him with lifeless eyes was the rotting shell of what had once been his wife. Henry screamed “I killed you! I locked you in the closet!” The thing reached out for Henry grabbed him and pulled him into the basement. The door swung closed and Sasha barked in the backyard.
Remember the scary story about the Hairy Toe? I’m on the first step, I’m on the second step…I want my hairy toe…that inspired this story.
A Pebble Dropped In The Pond
I’ve spent my entire adult life as a Police Officer. I left for the Army and the Military Police 29 days after I turned 18 and after 6 years as a Military Police Officer I left the service to become a Police Officer in civilian life which I’ve been doing for near 21 years now.
I didn’t know I was cut out for the job until I faced a moment in the Military my first tour of duty in Germany in which an individual threatened us with a baseball bat and without hesitation I tackled him and we handcuffed him. It was at that moment that I thought I might be pretty good at this job and I might want to make it a career. So I did, I extended my tour in Germany once and then re-enlisted for 3 years.
I took a deep breath after 6 years, got out and set my mind to getting hired as a Police Officer. It took me 10 months from the time I got out until I was hired. Over 1,000 people applied for the job when I got hired, 3 of us made it, I felt good about my choice about my career and the path my life was heading down.
But I soon realized if you are not careful, if you don’t watch out for yourself, this is a career that can eat you up from the inside. It can destroy lives and make you a very jaded, cynical, bitter person. I don’t work in a big city, I work for a moderate size town in NJ. We have roughly 27,000 residents, but a day time population approaching 3 times that amount. We have an extremely busy highway running through our town and we have our share of calls that can be a challenge.
Since I’ve been on the job I’ve been involved in investigations ranging from murder, huge thefts, robbery, rape, child abuse, attempted murder, and countless suicides and deaths. I’ve been kicked, punched, slapped, spit at, thrown up on, ignored, called every name in the book, been told I was good for nothing, a pawn for the Government, and a few times people have told me that they wish I would get shot. Through it all we try to maintain an air of professionalism. To be impartial, to render assistance when its needed and to run towards the danger when everyone else is running from it.
I worked at Ground Zero after the 9-11 attacks, I’ve spent countless hours away from my family. I’ve missed Christmases, and Easters, Birthdays and Baseball and Softball games. I’ve tucked my kids into bed over the phone or kissed them goodnight long after they’ve already been asleep.
I’ve seen devastation beyond belief. I’ve seen the anguish of a mother and father after I’ve told them their child had died in an accident. I’ve watched people draw their last breath. I’ve worked frantically to try to save someone only to see my efforts were in vain. I’ve seen countless women abused only to go back with their abuser time and time again and no amount of talking can convince her that he will ever change.
I’ve worked with the greatest bunch of people you’ll ever want to know, where at times I’ve spent more time with them than my own family. I see heroes daily on my job and I see the worst mankind has to offer. And after a while you question yourself. Why am I doing this? What good is this doing anyone? Who really appreciates us?
You can’t help but feel this way, after 27 years you doubt yourself all over again. Did I become a Police Officer because I wanted to make a difference in the world? You tell yourself that is why you became a Police Officer, maybe at the beginning you really even believed that. But the further and further you get into the job that becomes a distant memory. You aren’t changing anyones life, no one cares about what you do. And then it happened…a moment that validated my entire career, so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but monumental to this one person and it really shows you that you can touch a life.
On Sunday morning at 7 AM, I was getting an Egg McMuffin and a Sweet Tea at McDonalds, there was no one but a few cops in the store and a man walked in. As I was placing my order I felt he was staring at me I looked at him and he kept staring at me. I didn’t recognize him. I had no clue who he was. He walked over to me with a huge smile on his face and said “Officer Potts, you don’t remember me do you?” I didn’t and told him so. He said, “1997, you arrested me for DWI, I fell asleep behind the wheel of my car while driving in a parking lot.” I vaguely remembered, after so many years you tend to forget old cases. As he filled in the details it became clearer to me, I remembered that this individual blamed me for ruining his life that night in 1997. That he was going to lose his job, his family and his apartment. That I was the biggest piece of shit ever and that he hoped I died. I remembered he was filthy drunk, very combative, and full of hate. As I stood there in the McDonalds fully expecting to be told what an ass I was, this man stuck out his hand to shake mine and said “Thank You.”and told me that he has been sober since that night in 1997, he said that if I had not arrested him that night and spoken to him about getting help for his addiction he would be dead today. He was up early on a Sunday Morning because he was on his way to an AA meeting and that his life could not be better today because of me. Well needless to say I was a bit floored. He was someone that I had arrested 12 years earlier in the middle of my own doubts about my life and my job (anyone that really knows me knows what was happening to me in 1997) and I spoke to him about getting help and he listened to me.
27 years in Law Enforcement, 4 more to go until I retire, self doubt creeping in about my career choice, burn out a definite probability…and then this-an insignificant moment in a career of a Police Officer. A moment that neither harmed the world nor made it better as a whole, but a significant moment for this one man, a moment that changed this man’s life and the lives of everyone he knows and that loves him. The lives of all the people he speaks to at his AA meetings and the lives he’s changing by his example.
The pebble dropped in the pond, the ever expanding circles it creates until it reaches the shore of someone else’s life. As I stood in McDonalds I realized it had come full circle back to my shore. A life I had touched so many years ago had come back to touch mine, and erased all the self doubt that I felt. Did I make the right choice? You bet I did, 4 more years to go…let’s see who else’s life I can change.
A Little Girl’s Birthday
Today, February 20, is my daughter’s birthday, she is 12 and I am finding it so hard to believe that my little girl is 12 years old. Where has time gone?
Everyone knows I have 3 children and I love them all more than words can ever express, they each have a special place in my heart, but Marisa…well she’s my little girl and there is always a special place in a Father’s heart for his little girl.
I remember the day she was born and how happy I was to know that a little girl was going to call me Daddy, she was going to look to me to be the male figure in her life and to know that everything she will expect Men to be when she is older will be set by my example. How important it was going to be, and is for me, to set a strong role model in her life. To be strong yet compassionate.
I see in my daughter a beautiful young lady, who I know will grow up to be a beautiful woman both in appearance and demeanor. She is a social butterfly, she is funny and witty, moody and cranky, graceful and elegant…a joy to be around most of the time, and sometimes not so nice…she is smart, articulate, independent and makes me proud each and everyday…in other words she is growing up just as I had hoped she would..
Several years back, when my daughter was still in the Girl Scouts, they had a father daughter dance every year. It was a big deal we’d get all dressed up, I’d buy her a corsage and we’d go and spend the night socializing with the other girls and their fathers. We’d dance, well she’d dance and I’d do the best I could and always they’d play the song that I dreaded…”Butterfly Kisses” There is no way in God’s Green earth I contain one ounce of emotion when I hear that song and I’d dance with my daughter with tears streaming down my face, hoping no other fathers would notice, but seeing many of the other fathers in the same predicament I was in. When she was 9, we went to the dance and I had been feeling particularly down in recent weeks, Butterfly Kisses started playing and I danced with my daughter, tears welling up in my eyes. Marisa looked up at me and with all the beautiful wisdom a 9 year old girl could muster said “Don’t cry Daddy everything will be alright.” I held her tighter and said “You’re right Sweetheart, everything will be alright.” And it has been, for 12 years that my little girl has been with us. I can’t imagine the blubbering fool I’m going to be on her Wedding Day.
Happy Birthday to MY Little Girl… Daddy Loves You!
A Conversation with My Father
The Blog Entry was pretty emotional for me to write when I wrote it…it wasn’t too long after my father passed away that I felt the need to close up the loose ends that were there. My father ruined me because I could never gain his acceptance and he passed away before I had any closure. It is a scar in my life that not too many understand, I don’t think my wife even truely understands…Do you Cheri? I know she is reading these LOL…any way this one was long but needed to be written at the time…it was on the “Conversations with my Son” blog I was writing a few years back…..
A Conversation With My Father
This will be the first Christmas for me without my father being alive; it is not the first Christmas, however, without my father.
As I grew up my father was an extremely difficult man to get close to. No matter how much you believed you were making some headway in the relationship, my father tended to shut it out as quickly as it started, more so later in his life than early on.
Since my fathers passing in July I have done some serious soul searching. Re-running all the incidents that led up to the point that my father stopped caring about maintaining a relationship with me and felt it was best if we didn’t see each other. No he never came directly out and said those words, but his actions, or lack there of, spoke volumes as to what he felt. I know my father cared; I know my father must have loved me. He had to, being a father of three now myself I can not comprehend not loving your child and I can’t think of anything short of murder that I couldn’t forgive any of my children for. I believe my father’s short coming in life was his lack of forgiveness. His determination to hold a grudge against anyone he perceived to have wronged him no matter what the cost. In the long run, it cost him the last 5 years of his life with no contact with his grandchildren, except a card I had them send each year at Christmas. They are left with no real memories of him, only fading images of a man they barely knew. This was my fathers choice in life, not mine. But as I’ve said, I have deep regret because I keep thinking perhaps there is something more I could have done to right the situation, or at least made it more tolerable. I got very complacent towards the end, and didn’t care any more. I beat myself up over the whole situation, cursed him under my breath and aloud. Questioned why to everyone but him, dreaded having to call him on the holidays because the conversation was so labored and ashamed of myself for being happy when I got his answering machine. I know he got my messages, perhaps he even screened my calls, but one thing my father didn’t do was ever call me back. Not once, never did he return any of my Father’s Day calls, Birthday calls, Thanksgiving or Christmas calls. For 5 years I called and for 5 years I extended an invite to him to come to my house, never did I get a call back even to say no.
It will be 6 years ago this Christmas that I last laid eyes on my father alive, he came to my house for Christmas, and the conversation seemed to turn out well. Not labored, not forced. We were together with my Mother and her husband, Dad and his wife, my sister Elaine her husband and all the kids. I enjoyed the day immensely and thought at that time that we had finally turned a corner in our relationship that had been strained for several years prior. How wrong I was.
Dad hadn’t forgiven me for confronting him about some childhood issues during a party celebrating my daughters christening. Admittedly, it was an inappropriate subject for the event and not the proper place to do this confronting. But I had just been through some serious therapy for depression and suicidal thoughts, I had been drinking and it flowed. My father angry at me, stormed out and our relationship would never be the same. Oh I apologized more than once, in fact, I apologized for 2 straight years, but Dad never forgave and he didn’t forget. So he went on holding a grudge and resenting me more and more, he gave in that final Christmas we spent together and while we only spoke in generalities, at least we spoke and I felt good. Only to suffer over the next 4 years as I tried to understand, to re-establish and to re-connect, to the man I spent my life trying to impress and win his love. Last year I couldn’t do it any more and I said I would not call him for the holidays, and I didn’t, but it must not have fazed him, because he didn’t call me either. I sent a card from the kids with their school pictures in it. He did acknowledge this by sending a check to each kid for Christmas gifts.
So now Christmas is here again, I don’t have to lament over if I should call or not, I simply have to sit here and wonder if there was anything I could have done to make the situation better. Wonder if I was in his final thoughts at all, and pray that the man has found peace finally.
My father and I had a relationship not based on Father and Son, but based on Police Officer and Police Officer-we only related to one another through a job we both shared.
As I said earlier, I’ve soul searched and truly thought about my father over the past several months. I saw a picture recently of him and I together at a friends wedding, it is my favorite picture of my father and I before the confrontation that led to our falling out. We are both smiling and it took everything I had not to cry when I saw the picture in a photo album I had forgotten about. As I’ve thought about my father, I’ve come to realize he was a tortured man inside, incapable of showing how he truly felt. Incapable of allowing anyone to see he was hurt or allowing himself to seem even the slightest bit weak. My father was surely suffering from depression, residue from an unhappy childhood, Vietnam, a bad marriage at the end with my mother and whatever other evils lurked inside his mind. He suffered and never got treatment. I saw myself heading down that road several years ago and my thoughts were to end it all, I sought help and have faced any demons I might have had. My father’s thoughts on that were I was weak to seek help and thus I wasn’t worthy. Surely he couldn’t understand that the hard way was to face those demons, and exercise them from my life. To break a cycle of depression that was/is prevalent in our family and to do the one thing in this world I am mandated to do, raise my children on love, compassion, and to give them the gift of normalcy in their lives. So in that regard my father did right by me he showed me the things I shouldn’t do and for that I am thankful.
I entitled this entry “A Conversation with my father” and now I’m ready to have that conversation, while it certainly will be one sided these are things I needed to say in life to him and as I say them in death, I know he can hear me.
Dad, as I told you so many times in the past I am sorry for what I did and what I said, I could only apologize so much. I could only take your rejection of me and my family for so long. To make things right in my life I eventually had to let go and I did last year. This is the first Christmas that you’ve been dead, but it isn’t my first Christmas without you. For that I am truly sorry, that you and I couldn’t right our relationship just enough that my kids could have memories of you. I understand you Dad; I know you were hurting and couldn’t tell me, that you loved me and couldn’t show me. I forgive you for that and forgive you for any feelings of resentment and anger I harbored from my childhood. I know you only did the best you could, you raised me to be the man I am today and the father I am by making me look inside and realize that the disease that plagued this family, Depression, could be broken. I just wish you could have seen that Dad could have got the help and been happier in your final years. I promise you my children will know you through photos and stories. The memories I will share with them will be good ones, I will never down you around them and we will visit you in Arlington. We couldn’t get together when you only lived 30 minutes from me, but I will visit you even now that you are 3 hours away. I love you Dad and wanted to say Merry Christmas!