Looking at my parent's wedding album, it is easy to understand why they were nicknamed "Barbie and Ken" by those who knew them. If there is any such thing as the perfect couple, it was them.
My Mom was a bride that every little girl dreamed of looking like on her wedding day. She was an honor student with porcelain skin, long silky hair and a talent for baton twirling that demanded the towns' attention each year at the annual parade.
Next to the beautiful bride stood my father, tall and handsome with a head of thick wavy hair and a smile that was almost too bright to look at. His charm and movie star good looks, made women of all ages blush in his presence.
My Father came from a large family of seven children. He and his brothers followed in their father's footsteps and joined the ironworkers union and even though the job was very dangerous, my Father earned more than most of his peers. In fact, he earned enough to fully furnish a brand new home right after he and my Mom married.
On New Year's Day, a year and a half after the wedding, I was born. My Father made it a point to get home before my Mom and me so that he could assemble the cradle that he bought and sterilize everything he could for the homecoming of his bride and new baby. I still have the pictures from that very day, my Father sitting on the edge of the bed, next to my Mom, holding me close to his chest. If only someone knew then what the future would hold for the three of us.
The Beginning of the End: The Hero Turned Addict
My Father's brother was a known drug user. My Father was persuaded by his family to spend time with his brother in an attempt to help him "straighten out" his life. Ironically, that is about the time that my Father began using drugs himself.
My Parent's marriage took a downward spiral when the drug abuse began. My Mom tried so hard to give my Father the benefit of the doubt. But deep down she knew that he was doing more than playing pool with the guys late at night. He lost his job; he stopped taking care of himself and his nights out with the guys turned into days and weeks. Eventually, he stopped coming home all together.
My Mom did all she could to try to help him. She stood crying in the freezing cold holding me with one arm and banging on the door of a run down house with the other. There was a party inside and even though the music was loud, she could still hear my Father's voice, he sounded high. She begged and pleaded for him to come home with us, but he never opened the door. He didn't want to come home, he didn't want help, he was a stranger to us and it was up to my Mom to raise me on her own.
13 Years Later
It was embarrassing for me at a young age to tell people that I didn't really know my Father. Most of the time I lied to people about him, I always thought that if I admitted that my Father was an addict, that people would think that there was something wrong with me.
Deep down, I struggled to find answers to all the questions that I wanted to ask him. Why did you leave Mom and me? Wasn't I good enough? Did you hate me? Why did you choose a needle full of heroin over your wife and daughter?
The questions ate at me and by the age of 13, I was angry. I loved him and hated him at the same time. I loved him because he was my Father, but I hated him for leaving, I hated him for the 13 years of heartache that I watched my Mom go through. I hated him even more every time she cried over him. And most of all, I hated myself. I felt like his garbage, like he just crumpled me up and tossed me in the trash along with the rest of his life.
Luckily, my Mom was there for me through every swing of emotion that I had. If she wasn't there for me the way that she was, maybe I would have ended up like my Father, I could have. I wondered just how great drugs were, after all, they were enticing enough to convince a man to leave his family. But I never took that chance, my curiosity was strong, but my hatred of drugs was stronger.
I finally decided to try to find my Father. Although my Mom was very concerned about what meeting him might do to me emotionally, she knew that it was something that I had to do. I didn't know what I would find, I was afraid, however, I wanted just a moment with him, just enough time for him to look me in the eyes and tell me for once that he always loved me. He owed it to me.
Our search went on for over a year. Unfortunately, this was 17 years ago, long before the advent of reunion shows and the popularity of the Internet. We had to rely on old phone numbers, old friends and sadly, a ton of returned letters.
Then one day I was walking in from school and I heard my Mom crying on the phone. She waved me over and patted the seat next to her. My heart raced as she hung up the phone. "I am so sorry" she said, "Your Father died two weeks ago of a heroin overdose."
I would like to say that it only took a minute for those words to sink in, but I know it is going to take a lifetime. I felt cheated for the second time and I began to panic because I knew I would be stuck with that feeling forever. All I remember is crying, I cried for days. Sometimes, I still cry, but it is different now, I cry as a mother rather than a daughter. I have a wonderful husband, I am the mother to two beautiful girls of my own and in a few years I will be a doctor.
Now that I am older I have learned to accept what happened and not feel like the victim anymore. I realize now that he was the victim and because of that, I feel sorry for him. The best gift that I have ever received was the gift of becoming a parent. My Father was deprived of that gift, and although he was free to make the choices that he made, there was something inside of him that took him down the wrong path and sadly, he paid the ultimate price.
My anger toward my Father died along with him. I suppose it is better that I never had that moment with him that I wanted so many years ago. I am almost positive that it would have been nothing like I hoped that it would be.
I still have the photo of my Father holding me to his chest. I look at it occasionally and know deep in my heart that the man in the photo was a man who loved me, which is really something; considering that he never really loved himself
(Disclaimer) These stories have been written for Educating Voices, Inc. (EVI), and EVI is not responsible for its contents.Return to Stories