The Ramblings Inside My Creative Mind: My Daddy’s Gone

        Father’s Day 2018 marked the two year anniversary of my father’s death. That was a double gut punch. A day dedicated to him and the day that he left all in one. That day I spent in bed. If not for work that Saturday I would’ve been in bed the whole weekend. The anticipation leading up to that weekend was nerve-racking and by the time Saturday hit I was emotionally exhausted. At work I couldn’t stop the tears from randomly falling. I finally got fed up and went to our break room just to take a breath and cool my mind. Not 5 minutes after I’m called to the front where my Uncle just decided to randomly pop in because he was in the area. It was as if my dad sent him. When he hugged me I became a blubbering mess. Like an idiot I apologized for having emotions and he reminded me that I’d see my dad again, the healthy him, and that he was proud of me. Which was the perfect thing to say to make me cry harder. Father’s Day I hardly left my bed. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to be. Even now 10 days later I still feel emotionally exhausted and just spent. 2018 seems to be a harder year than the last, dealing with his death. I think the reason for that is that my boyfriend reminds me so much of him. The fact that they’ll never meet makes me sad. I feel like I’m finally on a path to somewhere and he’s not here to see it. If we get married or start a family, he won’t be there. That hurts.
       Today I saw my therapist, the first time since that weekend and we broke it all down in a way that I’ve thought about in fleeting, but never unpacked it the way I did today. She took me back to the feelings I had when he died and how our relationship was before that. I didn’t realize all the feelings I had about him, his later life, and his death until today. I also barely thought about how he must’ve been feeling all that time too.
        From 2008-2012 I was living away from and most of our interactions were through phone because I could barely afford to visit in those years I were away. When I returned late 2012-2016 my feelings about him changed. I got to see first hand his drug abuse (that I’ve talked about several times before). I saw how his body was breaking down and how he truly wasn’t the man who had raised me. He was in there somewhere, but his soul was weak. A few years before he passed I remember completely losing my shit on him. I caught him actually doing drugs in our home and all of the anger of seeing dealers come to our house, his total disregard for the safety of his family, and just the overall feeling of “this wasn’t supposed to happen to our family”. One day overhearing him deny his activities to my mom, I lost it. I came in screaming, hollering, crying, and cursing. I’d had enough. Everything bubbled to the surface. I don’t remember everything, but I do remember saying “I wouldn’t care if you died.” Yeah, those words still ring in my ears. I carry a lot of guilt because of it. I wonder if when I said it, he thought “I don’t either.” Although that happened a few years before he passed I wish I could take it back. I don’t know if those words stuck with him as long as they stuck with me.
        When I was much younger, around four or five, I think, he had an accident at work. He came in contact with some chemical that really fucked him up. No, he wasn’t deformed or anything like that, but he’d have times that his hands and feet would swell tremendously to the point where it would break the skin. There was lots he couldn’t do for himself. Even toddler me would comb his hair because he couldn’t so much as grip a comb or brush. I was so young at the time that I had no concept of the possible severity or time. I can’t tell you if this went on for months or years and I can’t honestly tell you how much pain he may have been in because I don’t remember him showing any signs of being in pain, ever. As I told my doctor, it wasn’t until my sophomore or junior year of high school that I noticed something was off. He never had any money, always behind on bills, gas tank forever on E, and would always borrow money from me as if I had a job, so essentially just asking to borrow my allowance back. It wasn’t until I was about 24 that I knew for certain something was going on. My dad had frequent trips to the ER and on one of them the doctor let it slip that he found cocaine in his system. There it was. The truth laid out in front of me. Not until today did I wonder, did this start when I was five? I remember around that time always going to the doctor with him and getting scripts. Did it start with the pain meds from all those years ago, and by the time I was 16 he was into a full addiction, and by the time I was 24 he was in a I don’t give a fuck phase of his addiction?
        While I was still living in Chicago, maybe around 2010, he had to be rushed to the hospital again. I didn’t rush home because my mom told me it was just more of the same. She told me that he had finally admitted that he was doing heroin. I look back on that reveal of the cocaine and think was he doing cocaine and escalated to heroin? Was he just taking what his dealer had available? Or in true Dayton, Ohio fashion when it comes to these sleazy dealers, did he maybe by weed or pills and it happened to be laced with something? At the point of his heroin reveal I didn’t really care because in the end of the day he was still an addict. That time I wrote him a loving letter letting him know how proud I was of him for taking that first step. I wonder if he truly absorbed those words I wrote. One time my mother told me he admitted he thought he was depressed. If so maybe it’s possible my words felt like lies or just blank words on notebook paper. That’s what depression does, after all. It turns love into lies. We never really discussed it and naive me thought the best was ahead of us instead of the worst.
        In those final years his health was completely shot. In 2011 he had a stroke. He had developed COPD as well as congestive heart failure which lead to him getting a pacemaker in 2014. The following year after that he was on oxygen, and followed a diagnosis of an aneurysm in his stomach. Looking back it was a miracle he lived as long as he did. As my doctor said, with the COPD and congestive heart failure alone he had to be in constant pain. By then were the drugs to numb the pain, out of addiction, or both? With my begging him to quit was he afraid that if he did the pain would never stop? In the end even if it did numb the pain the drugs only accelerated the damaging of his health.
        Today I looked back on how alone and helpless he must’ve felt for years. I remember when my mom told me about his self diagnosis of depression and I didn’t know what to say because I was trying to understand my own. I can’t imagine what it must’ve felt like to be a man, and feel like if he were to reach out for help he might of been seen as less than. Not only just having it not make sense because he was of a generation who definitely didn’t talk about depression. It was just suck it up and get on with it. I can’t imagine being so lost that you become something that is the complete opposite of yourself. My dad was creative. He loved to draw, build things with his hands, and play music. He taught me a lot. He was very in tune with his culture, black empowerment, black knowledge,  black history, etc. He drilled these things into my head, that at the time, I didn’t want to hear or didn’t understand, but I completely get now and plan on drilling into my kids heads. He was the epitome of black excellence so to see him deteriorate the way that he did doesn’t make sense to me and makes all of the sense at the same time. It is unfortunate. I see that he was a complex human being. He wasn’t always strong. That’s the image I always had of him. Strong, but he was human. He had weakness. He had emotion. He did hurt. If only he had opened up, but perhaps he was too busy trying to be strong. But good or bad, strong or weak, he was my father. I loved him then. I love him now. And I will love him forever.

-Asia Aneka Anderson, 2018©

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