I was about the age of 3 when my mother and father separated. My father was far from a perfect man and parent. He was more loyal to the drink than he was to his family which drove a wedge between. My mother drew a line, either his reckless decisions or his family. He preferred the hardy drink and bachelor type lifestyle. However, my younger sister and I did have weekend visitations and my father did his best to give his best. Pizza and movie nights, Bowling, Frisbee in the back yard, Bike rides to the church parking lot down the road etc. I hold these little memory gems close to my heart because I know somewhere deep down my father really tried. He tried to rise above his demons but he didn’t always succeed. With these fond memories I hold near, some of them also unfortunately included bouts of drunkenness. My little sister and I pretended not to notice when he slurred his speech or his balance wasn’t as steady. The only word I could think of for him was “Sad”. I felt sad that this was my father’s choice for his life. I knew this even in my young years. Weekend visits like this continued for years. Some weekends I thought I saw a glimmer of hope for him when he appeared to be sober. Some weekends I prayed that something bad wouldn’t happen to him that night in the presence of my little sister and I. As I grew older, I grew more distant from my father who was becoming more and more of a ‘Shell’ of a person. He began to appear to me as just a tank that required alcohol many times throughout the day. I missed the little gems of memories from childhood and most importantly, I simply wanted a father. Not who he was drinking himself into. My entire life, I only thought I had seen glimpses of who he may have been. However, most of the time I ever knew him, he was some form of influenced by alcohol. Buzzed, tipsy, smashed, trashed. When I reached the end of my teenage years is when I finally decided that I no longer wanted to watch my father drink himself into the grave. I no longer called him, I no longer visited him. Months went by and then a few years went by. I became engaged to my now husband Chris and I struggled whether or not to tell my father. I struggled whether or not to introduce Chris to my father. I never did either of those.
Just two weeks before the day of my wedding, I was leaving the grocery store when a man approached me. It was my father. He had a very burly messy beard that was now mostly washed in gray amongst the brown. He was much thinner than the last time I had seen him. So weak and frail looking and I could just feel shame and embarrassment radiating from him as he looked into my eyes as if to make sure it was his daughter he had stopped in front of. I held my breath to keep myself from crying and I hid my left hand behind my back to conceal my engagement ring. “Hi dad.” I said. He replied simply “How’ve you been? How’s the family?” Needless to say, it was a very quick and dry conversation. After the brief chit-chat, we said our good-byes and went out separate ways.
Fast-Forward to 2008, I was now a married woman and also diagnosed with Epilepsy. I struggled immensely wanting to help my father overcome his alcoholism, wanting Chris to meet my father and wanting to tell my father that I had become diagnosed with Epilepsy. Chris and I shared a very similar scenario with our fathers. Both of them had their struggles with alcoholism. As I coped with my Epilepsy diagnosis and continued on through daily life, a time came around 2012 when I had decided that I wanted to see my father, help my father and introduce him to Chris. I had mentally emotionally and spiritually become prepared. Then I got a text that froze me in place and shocked me to the very core. My little sister, “Hey! Did you hear about dad?”… “Dad died.” All of me remained frozen for quite a duration of time that day. Unable to feel…anything. I knew. No one needed to tell me what caused his life to end. I just knew that he had lost his battle. It had finally taken his life as I knew it always would. As I so badly hoped that it wouldn’t. I mourned the father that he tried to be and the father he just couldn’t become because of his decisions. He had already passed away by the time I decided I wanted to see him.
Still, I went forward with wanting to see my father and wanting to introduce Chris to my father. With a heavy heart, we traveled to his home. I knocked upon the door and my grandfather answered the door. He looked at me not knowing who I was. Of course, he had not seen me in years. After reminding him that I was his granddaughter, a knot the size of a baseball welled up in my throat and tears pooled in my eyes. In recognizing me, he could no longer contain his emotions and allowed us in. The house of childhood memories, weekend visits, now lied empty and cold. Boxes of my fathers belongings and photographs. My grandfather explained that indeed alcohol had claimed my fathers life. Doctors warned him to stop but he didn’t listen. As Chris and I stood there, without saying a word, my grandfather pointed to a rectangular black box on a table behind us and began to weep. A cold electric chill ran down every part of me as I held my breath and turned around. My father was right there in that box. Reduced to ashes. I wanted so bad to break down, collapse to my knees and weep. I felt it begging me to give in but I just couldn’t. Inside, silently, I said “Hi dad. Dad… I’m so sorry.” I had been too late. He was already gone.
I never had the chance to tell him that I had become diagnosed with Epilepsy. I never had the chance to ask him questions that might give me more insight into why I may have been stricken with this condition. If anyone else on that side of the family had ever experienced seizures or Epilepsy. I never had the chance to show him all that I had overcome and the vow of advocacy I have taken on for Epilepsy Awareness. He lost his battle with his condition, and it brought me to the realization that I would always fight to overcome this condition and any condition I would ever face. I had no idea, the weeks leading up to my marriage, seeing my father in the parking lot, would be the last time I would ever see my father alive. Where ever he is now, I pray that he is in peace. Suffering no pain. No longer a slave to his addiction. I pray that he knows how much I wished he would’ve overcome and that I wanted to help him.
My father never knew that I had become diagnosed with Epilepsy but he did indeed teach me one very important lesson. Never allow yourself to become negatively consumed by your condition. Rise above. Fight. Never ever give up.
Dad, I’m so sorry…. I miss you & I hope to see you again one day. I hope you’re proud of who I’ve become. Thank you for unknowingly teaching me such a very great and important lesson. Rest peacefully.
I am a happily-ever-after wife, an Epilepsy Diagnosee, Advocate for Epilepsy Awareness (The Epilepsy Network), life lover & Christ inspired! Life is a journey and I'm loving every moment of it. Even the bumps in the road!