A father is supposed to set the stage for his daughter the moment she is born. You set mine when you died.
I had called him the day of my high school graduation, after spending years being mad. We hit it off right away and spent every free moment we had together. I started going over to his house as often as I could. We’d order food and just sit there next to each other watching movies. I caught myself thinking back to when I was a little girl, laying across his legs on Sundays just staring at him. I thought if I could memorize his face, I’d remember it when I was deserted with the feeling of never knowing the next time I’d see him. Here I was a grown woman doing the same exact thing. So excited to have him next to me, scared he’d be gone at a moment’s notice.
In the summer time I’d come over and we’d sit out listening to music and I’d listen to the stories he had told a million times before. He’d ask how the rest of my family was and how much he missed them. We’d get in the car and go driving around listening to Peter Frampton, laughing and talking. He was there when my son was born and was so excited to be a grandpa. He’d come to my son’s soccer games and cheer him on. Gave him the nickname Bulldozer. We’d go to the Oyster Bar and listen to blues music. It was in those times I saw him the happiest. It was those moments that I was the happiest. He introduced me to Hurricanes and showed me how to eat a crawfish. He forced me to try raw oysters for the first time, then laughed out loud and told me how I looked exactly like my mother the first time he ate them with her. His laugh was so genuine, real, and I felt it every time I heard it
One day he said that he was sick and had to start taking pills for his back. I don’t remember him having an accident, but with my busy life, I didn’t pry. The phone calls became more about what he needed from me, and less about how I was doing or how he missed me. Things in his home life started to get more dramatic and tumultuous. He started to get agitated when I was around, and drank a lot more. He got into some trouble with the law and always played it off like it was someone else’s fault. I remember my brother David calling me one day saying “Dad was found miles away in his boxers and a trench coat lost and incoherent. He’s at Highland.” I thought OK. Something isn’t right here. That’s not like my dad. I’ve seen him drunk several times and he was never “lost or incoherent”. My dad called me from the rehab crying, begging me to come get him. I kept asking him “Dad, if you’re not sick, then why did they take you there?” He told me he just took too many pain pills on accident and it messed him up a little bit. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the start of his downward spiral into his opioid addiction.
He was released and I continued to help him and take him places and allowed him in my life. His stories became more elaborate and excuses more transparent when asked why his pills were missing. Or why he called and left a screaming voicemail that made no sense. After his antics got too much, I moved him closer to me. To take him out of the undisguised drug world he had somehow fell into. I thought if he was closer to me I could watch him and I would be more aware of who was in his life giving him these horrible drugs. Little did I realize, the person who was getting him these drugs was the same person trying to save him. Me.
Missouri was one of the only states without a prescription drug monitoring system. It was an epidemic and I was becoming a part of it. I was completely unaware that when I was driving him to all of these different doctors, he was getting the same 120 count for Oxycodone from each one. In my naïve mind, I thought that he was just really in pain and just that sick. I believed he needed all of those Oxy’s and the Xanax, among the others. I told myself that sick people take a lot of pills. I justified the drinking and pills with the fact that he was going through a hard time and lonely. Living out near me away from everything he knew was hard for him. He had lost custody of my little brother, and everything he was trying wasn’t going to be good enough. He got sick one time in the downstairs bathroom, and I remember feeling so helpless. It never occurred to me, he was having withdrawals.
He called me one day saying he couldn’t live down there anymore and he was moving back in with the same guy I had rescued him from. I was furious. After that, things went downhill quickly. It was such the typical addict/enabler relationship. If he didn’t get what he wanted he’d get angry until I gave in. And I gave in, every single time because I loved him and I wanted in him my life. When he “needed” me, I never hesitated for a second to come to his rescue. The last time I came to his rescue was a Tuesday in May, it was also too late. His body had been there for days and is still an image that screams in my mind every night before I go to sleep. When he begged me to come see him that Sunday, I hesitated, and said I will another time. I hesitated getting him help. I hesitated between telling him yes or no. I shouldn’t have hesitated. My hesitation, thinking I’d lose him, caused me to lose him still.