In the story line of my life, my father played both hero and villain. His addiction firmly imbedded him with a personality that was duplicitous in nature. To his young daughter who was me it was confusing. So our relationship was complicated and people who were on the outside looking in guessed that perhaps there was no love between us. They were wrong.
I love my father as passionately and fiercely as I have ever loved anything or anyone. As a young girl I felt he needed to be both corrected and protected mostly from himself. As insane as the drugs made him, I was never afraid of him. It never occurred to me, watching him rage break things hit people scream that he would harm me because the addict wasn’t him. The addict was the villain but my father, daddy he was the hero and even if it killed him I knew with every fiber of who I was that he would protect me from the insanity that raged in him.
I was right.
When we got the call that daddy was dead we were stunned. I don’t believe the shock of it has lifted yet. My father could talk anybody out of anything, I am certain that if he’d wanted he would have been able to convince even death to move on. But he didn’t and on September 13th he was found dead and decomposing in his kitchen on the northeast side. I count the fact that my father died alone in an overheated kitchen as my biggest failure.
When we got to the house, I played his answering machine. My final message to him? “Don’t be over there acting like you don’t have nobody. Call somebody and let them know you alright.” But he didn’t and in the end he wasn’t. I have been punishing myself these last several years because I didn’t just get up and drive over there to deliver the message. I left it on his machine. I think to myself I could have been stronger. And I hear him telling me, “That’s not your job. It’s not your job to raise me.” But as always I’m not listening.
My father was not a tall man. Of him and his five brothers, he was the shortest. This took most people by surprise because his personality was piercing. He had a presence that filled rooms. If you told a joke and then he told the same joke he always got more laughs. He was that guy. The one people listened to. He was the guy who walked in a room and everyone waited to see where he was going because wherever that was, they knew that would be the location of the real party. He had the power to rally people to celebrate, get into mischief or change the world. In his lifetime he did all three in a continuous and sometimes simultaneous pattern. To know him was to admire him and to be driven crazy by him. You just kept thinking to yourself why isn’t he president of something? Every job he got, he was eventually put in charge of something or someone. He wasn’t a good boss but he was an magnificent idea man. Boxes were made for my daddy to bust open. He was incapable of staying in them and challenged you to get out of your box sometimes on purpose but most of the time his challenges were issued by ways of his annoyances. You had to move because if you kept still, he was gonna steam roll you.
I am my father’s daughter. I am loud, like him. I get my intelligence from him, and I think outside of the box because of him. When I laugh I forget where I am and the volume on my voice multiples, people stare but every time I do it, I wonder if he’s in the room. My jokes are corny like his but I can tell a story that will get a room going, just like him. I am not a tall woman and that takes people by surprise because my personality is so big it would just make sense that I be big as well. I smirk when I know I’m about to win, just like him. And no matter what the issue is at hand, like my father, I see it as a competition and instinctively I go in warrior mode. I will fight for the right thing even in the presence of people telling me I’m wrong. Even if I have to go it alone, I will fight. But I also like to party and will celebrate the mundane in a minute complete with balloons, confetti and a three piece band (the fanfare I get from my mother; but that’s another story).
Images of my father surround me. I keep them active because they remind me…he lived. And through them I get the opportunity to keep the conversation or debate going. I get the chance to say ‘see daddy I told you so’; or ‘there you go again,’ and in it I get to hear him tell me,’you love me. I always knew it…’
And for once I acquiesce because he’s right.