A Young Man Speaks – When Dad Died, an Essay

A friend recently sent me this short story; I hope his story resonates with you as much as it did with me.

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I went to the cape this weekend. I packed up some miscellaneous camping supplies, threw my surfboard on the roof, charged up my ipod and hit the road.

I didn’t really want to call Rose. I know she’s as sweet as can be, but she just brings back nothing but memories of my old man. And unfortunately, for me, those are mostly bad. When she didn’t show up at my fathers funeral she sent me a consoling email. We went back and forth a few times – me somehow telling her I’d come visit. It’s not like I didn’t want to – I did, I just didn’t want to deal with all that went along with the encounter. I’d avoided all such encounters for over 2 years before my father died. I got busy and moved to California so I thought I was off the hook even though I know that’s just my head talking. But then I moved back. I felt obligated but also felt that maybe it would do me some good to actually face up to my fears. Experience has shown me that it really does help in the long run.

STORY CONTINUES…

We played phone tag my whole day out to the Cape. The last message she left was telling me that she and her husband would be at The Cove, some karaoke bar in Hyannis. “ Great, she wants me to meet her at a bar”, I thought. It only seemed fitting. We finally talked and I met her and her husband, Rick, at the Cove at 9:45. Rose stands 4’10” and has this voice like Aretha Franklin. She’s a born entertainer, a soulful woman. Her new husband was singing Frank Sinatra when I walked into the bar. Rose was drinking a coke. Apparently she doesn’t drink. Nice.

It was kind of awkward. Rick, as gentle a soul as Rose, kept talking about how great my father was. “He was like the big brother I never had”, he shouted over Meatloaf. I somehow managed to oblige as my head recounted hundreds of stories of drunken rages, rehabs, wrecked cars, and domestic abuse. I wanted to talk to Rose. Alone. Did I mention that it was awkward?

They offered to let me stay in their guest room as opposed to camping out. It sounded ok to me. We chatted briefly in their living room once we got back to their condo. I don’t really remember about what. I was tired. Tired of waiting. Tired of being anxious. Tired of being agreeable.

Breakfast.

I can’t tell you everything that was said. Let’s just say it was hard. And Rose knew why I wanted to see her. She’d seen me at my Aunt Bondi’s funeral (another brutal alcoholic death) and how upset I was. We talked about “the elephant in the room” syndrome that seems to be so pervasive in my family. They actually wanted to get an autopsy done on my Aunt. They wanted to slice her fucking body open after watching her drink white wine with ice all day long for years since she’d switched from vodka because the doctor told her she should lay off the hard stuff just to see what killed her. I wonder. It’s pretty unbelievable to see. But I digress.

We sat eating and chatting. Making some nice progress in talking about all sorts of things that I don’t talk to most people about. Then Rose looked me in the eye and said to me “I wish you’d known your father before he took his first drink, because he was the best friend I ever had.”

Wow. Tears. Endless tears. Just hearing her say it over in my head – tears.

Me, too, Rose. Me, too.

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