About a month ago, my father died… I cried, I’m not ashamed to admit that. It was the first time I had ever lost a parent of mine… I broke down, there on my knees, bent over the crisp sheets of the queen size bed I was leaning against in my hotel room roughly 1,500 miles away from him in Iowa while he was in North Carolina helping my wife move our family to Florida for my new job.
First my mind flooded with the pictures of him as he attended my first, and only real graduation in my life from college. Then the ones of him holding my beautiful daughter on the lawn with the shade from the old oak tree in our front yard. Her smile, as radiant as the brightly colored rose pedals in front of our house, pointed straight at the silly, half-buzzed grin of her grandpa after a few mixed drinks in the morning… long before anyone’s happy hour.
Then entered the first time I ran in the Junior Olympics… three first places to my credit that day. I remember the phone call, he couldn’t believe it when I told him. In his words, “Bullshit,” he replied to my elated tone.
Next, within my easing sobs, was the memory of receiving his letter to me at Chrysalis when I was 15 years old. “I love that you are finally learning to find your relationship with Christ,” he wrote on a piece of paper slightly scented and stained with what I could guess was Jack Daniels whisky. Walking in the front door of our home, with tears in my eyes from the letter he wrote I recall my reply, “Dad… what the fuck did I ever do to you?”
As the last of the tears left my eye, the last memory I have my father as a dad crept into my broken heart as I felt the pain of the years of his sickness pierce my chest. “You’re the third biggest mistake in my life!” “You’re a coward for coming here and recruiting at home while your brother is off fighting in a war to defend our country!” “Sounds like you’re a Satanist, just like your mother!” “So, you’re taking Oxycodone to cover up your Coke habit huh, can’t wait till their new hot shot exec is asked about that…” “I swear to fucking God Michael, if you don’t give me that money you will fucking regret it!” “Send me that money so I can get home Michael, or I swear to God I will make you regret it!” “You’re fucking bitch wife and you better get me home before I come there and take it!”
Still on the phone, my wife whimpers to me in the same fear I felt as a child, “Michael, I swear to God I would never just accuse your dad of this shit. I’m not lying. I came here, and he was incoherently drunk on the floor with Mary screaming on the floor!”
My hand begins to crush the edges of the cell phone within my palm as she continues, “He hadn’t fed her all day or changed her. Mary was shaking in my arms Mike, and when I accused your dad of what he had done he started getting in my face. He started screaming about what a bitch I was, and started throwing things at Mary and I before I threw him out of the house.”
My mouth began to dry, and my muscles began to tighten and the combination of rage and adrenaline swirled within my veins as she concluded, “Michael I am scared. He was creeping in the garage while I was walking around the house half-naked. He is calling with threats every hour, and I had to call the cops. I didn’t want to call you while you were away on business, but I don’t know what to do. He is acting like he is going to kill me!”
A long, deep, silent breath fills my lungs before I exhale and instruct her to call her father and ask him to please stay with you until I can get home.
“Okay,” I ask her in hopes of a response so she would hang up the phone. She agrees, and with that my phone deafens in my ear.
“MOTHERFUCKER! I TRUSTED YOU! YOU SON OF BITCH, I LEFT YOU WITH MY LITTLE GIRL! I THOUGHT YOU HAD CHANGED! I THOUGHT YOU HAD FINALLY GOTTEN BETTER, BUT YOU NEVER DID! YOU JUST FOUND ANOTHER WAY TO HURT ME… to hurt my little girl.”
Calmly I state over the line as my father screamed obscenities over the receiver against my ear. “Valiant Gale Nims III, you are dead to me. I had hoped my daughter was perfect enough for you to love, but the only things you love are the substances in your veins. I pray that you aren’t stupid enough to be there when I fly home, because if you are, the war within my veins will defend the ones I love. I promised my baby girl that I would devote my life to her happiness. To protect her perfect love, and to guard her against the evil in this world. God forgive me for breaking my promise, but she will never know the horror of your sickness, your addicitons, ever again…”