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Four years ago this month was one of the hardest months of my entire life. First, my landlord decided to tell me (with barely 30 days’ notice) that after several years, he wasn’t going to renew my lease because he needed the extra space for personal use. Y’all know how it is. Moving can be STRESS-FUL.
As I was entering into about 10 days left on my lease, with no new place to go in sight, I received an email that took March from being stressful to being pretty devastating. No exaggeration.
I penned a piece on here not too long ago about why I cut off my father’s side of the family. It might sound harsh but trust me, if you read it, you’ll get that I dodged some major bullets by doing so. Anyway, the cut off is why I received the news that I did, from my paternal grandfather, via email.
He asked me to give him a call and honestly, because he was so horrific when it came to proactive communication, something deep inside of me already knew that it was bad news.
In fact, I was on the phone with one of my closest friends when his email showed up in my inbox. I simply said to her, “He’s only reaching out to tell me that someone died.” In my gut, I knew that it was his mother (someone I did have a relationship with) or…my father.
How did I come to such a drastic conclusion, not so much about my great-grandmother but about my dad? It’s kind of hard to explain, but sometimes I can sense when people close to me are…transitioning (that’s another article for another time). On top of that, my dad and I spent about a year prior having some pretty intense conversations. In response, a couple of times I would find myself saying to him, “Please don’t do anything crazy, aight? I’m going to be 40 soon.”
What motivated me to make such an odd request? My dad had been an (albeit pretty functioning) on-again-off-again substance abuser for most of my life. The core of him was good, but life had brought him A LOT of pain and rejection, so on top of drugs and alcohol (and a couple of stints in jail due to drugs and alcohol), he was also pretty bitter. His AA meetings, his keyboard and bass, his cats, the Dallas Cowboys and me were pretty much the only things that kept him going. Literally.
It was pretty much a tradition for us to talk every Sunday — for the most part. When I read my grandfather’s email about asking me to call him, I called my dad first. His phone went to voicemail. Odd. He almost always picked up for me. Then I went to through my emails to see the last time I heard from him. It was February 28. Yeah…something wasn’t right.
I called my grandfather, already assuming that I was about the hear the worst news ever. Remember what I said about having a sense about things? I was right. My father was dead. His body was at the coroners.
I won’t even get into how RIDICULOUS my grandfather was with his shoddy details. In the weeks following the call, I actually had to Google my dad’s address and track down his landlord to find out what happened to him. Basically, the last couple of weeks of his life, he had the ultimate relapse, became a roaring drunk, threw himself down some stairs and wrecked his car. He had lived at the same place for 13 years and his landlord said that although he knew that my dad struggled with drugs and alcohol, he had NEVER seen him so bad off.
It was SO my dad’s style to drop into the management office every day to see what the people there needed. That’s why I believed his landlord when he said that he knew something was “off” when a few days had passed by and they didn’t see him.
His landlord let himself into my dad’s place and there he was — dead on the kitchen floor. Although, to this day, I never asked what condition my dad was in, my gut told me it was a suicide. When I asked his landlord if that was what it appeared to be, he paused for a moment and softly said, “Yes.”
I didn’t attend my father’s funeral. Some may think that’s odd as well, but I know my father. Although my grandfather — a man who had not seen his firstborn son in almost two decades — decided to fly to where my father lived to hold a funeral, my dad would’ve preferred to be cremated, for us all to have a shot on him and call it a day. He certainly wouldn’t want people standing over his body, gawking, or trying to relieve their guilt. My grandfather didn’t listen to me — my father’s only child. Rarely did he, so, it was whatever.
I loved my dad. My dad loved me. More and more, I honestly believe that love is what kept him going as long as he did.
Sometimes, it still really hurts that my love didn’t fuel him longer, but now that I’m at the four-year anniversary of him passing, this is where I’m at with it all.
As far as my father’s decision to leave here, I respect his choice. Death is very personal. It might sound weird, but that part is none of my business. We all have a right to do what we will with our lives. It’s a harsh reality, yet still the truth.
I’m glad that I’m still a single woman who bears his last name. I desire to be married someday and yes, I do plan on changing my name to my husband’s; but my dad had so much talent and potential that went unrecognized that I want to represent him for a while. I want to be the part of his DNA that is healthy, happy and not just surviving, but thriving.
When Sundays (or football season) roll around, even after all of this time, there is still a part of me who expects him to call with “Hey, Big Girl” or “You Ole’ Fatleg” — the strange-yet-super-sentimental terms of endearment that my father had for me. Sundays are the hardest.
I’ve learned to pinpoint subtle signs of depression much quicker now. If someone in your life suddenly ghosts on you or you have moments when they cross your mind and something doesn’t feel quite right, MAKE THE TIME to check in. It could be nothing. It could really be something, too. You won’t know unless you reach out.
Suicide? Listen, some people don’t take their life because they truly want to die. That might sound weird to hear but some people do it because they just want the pain to end — and they don’t see another way to make that happen. Suicide deserves its own specialized kind of sympathy. It really does.
I had moments when I battled with wanting to commit suicide myself. I can’t see doing it now. Actually, my dad doing it is what ensures it. One of us has to carry on the lineage. One of us has to make our natural-born gifts and talents make a name on this planet. One of us has to say we could make it through. No matter what.
I miss my dad. Unless you’ve lost a parent, you won’t get how loaded that simple sentence is. Four years later, I still think about calling him, I carry a picture of him and me from when I was a little girl in my wallet and I still look at past emails and cards that he used to send.
When you have a parent who died at their own hands, you don’t “get over it.” You just, ironically, find ways to live through it.
I knew my dad well enough and love him abundantly enough to not be mad at him for what he did. If anything, especially on this side of things, he gets more compassion than ever. I wish he were here, but four years later, I’m committed to being stronger for the both of us.
I’m still maintaining and staying strong, dad. As for you, just keeping resting in peace.