As I woke up the morning of March 6, 2015, I thought, how am I going to survive this day? I mean, here I am preparing for one of the last steps to finalize this whole unimaginable ordeal. How will I even hold it together? I told myself one foot in front of the other, 5 minutes at a time, we’ll get through, always do. I worried for my siblings and for the grandkids. I worried that things wouldn’t go right or that it wasn’t what dad wanted. I questioned our plans and wanted everything to be just right. The way dad would have wanted it.
Just a short 12 hours previous was his visitation. As we arrived at the funeral home, I didn’t have time to stop and think. We polished up pictures, dusted off chaps, arranged and rearranged. Perfect. Isn’t that ironic? I had no clue what to expect next. None. I stood there fiddling my hands to busy my mind. When the people started arriving, they didn’t stop. So many faces everywhere. Some I knew, but most I didn’t. I stood and accepted hands, hugs, condolences, memories and handshakes. I was in awe and so entirely delighted to see that the man I knew as my father was so loved and thought of. I was graciously overwhelmed and as empty as my heart felt with his absence, it was full.
Some of my dad’s very prized possessions. He was a man of very simplistic means. Besides his children, grandchildren, family and his old dog “Pep”, he didn’t have anything else. Besides his alcohol, to which he struggled with for a large part of his life. He lost many things over this addiction, but one thing is for certain, he was a great man with many bad choices along his walk of life. He made choices that no one, not even his children could correct for him. We loved him despite his flaws with our entire hearts.
You see, my dad, the first man that loved me, was a hard-headed man. He was more selfish in our childhood years but I didn’t realize this until I was much older. He still stood on a pedestal. He taught me to make a bloody mary the way he liked them. He would sit me in the middle of the kitchen table and feed me mashed potatoes and chicken legs. His favorite meal. He struggled to grow up to raise his children but he loved being a grandpa. He loved his grandkids. More than life. Back to March 6th…
There were laughs shared, stories told and new people I met. Most people really only knew my brother, Levi, and my sister, Chelsea. I tended to be the silent, shy and quiet one. And those two, well anyone that truly knows us knows I don’t have to say much more. They both would do enough talking that I didn’t have to.
Everything fell together, just as we had planned. Just the way dad would have wanted it.
As I woke at 4 that morning with sleepy eyes (from two hours of sleep mind you), a pounding head and an aching heart, it was time to prepare for yet another day. However, I laid there and thought about our ups and downs. I thought about the- if only’s, the sorrows, the good and bad times. The harsh words we spoke when our stubborn-headedness stood in our way and the memories we shared. I felt sick of a broken heart. It still to this day pains and my stomach churns knowing he is no longer here. For anyone who has lost a loved one surly knows what I’m talking about.
I would say that it’s time to get rid of my tear-streaked pillow but its not. There will be many more tears, sleepless hours and endless thoughts. I told myself to buck up, show up, be tough, and hold my head high. My dad, despite all his ways, was a great man. You either liked him or you didn’t. I will take pride in knowing that he is happy now. His pain is no more. The suffering is over and he is in a much better place. I loved him and he loved me. I was his Tonto. When God looked down and said, jump on cowboy it’s time to go, he gladly did just that. He had one hell of a ride here on this earth and the memories are left behind.
This is the man I inherited my brown eyes, my Dumbo ears and the eyebrows from. I miss him every single day. It was from him I learned to love music; from Nitty Gritty and Willie Nelson to Don McLean and John Prine. My heart aches from time to time knowing that I was so damn furious with him in the last year of his life because he wouldn’t give up his habit. It pains me to think the last time I talked to him was on March 1st 2015 when he called to tell me he was sick yet again and I stopped briefly to see him. I regret this time because I should have stayed longer, insisted he go to the hospital, but I didn’t. Something I realize now is- he felt alone and that the alcohol brought him happiness and occupied his time and drowned his sorrows. There’s some of the “if only’s” and the sorrows I was just talking about.
“People keep telling me that life goes on, but to me, that’s the saddest part.” Never waste a day saying, I will tomorrow; I’ll call tomorrow; I can tomorrow or even, yeah later. Sometimes later or tomorrows never come.
As for the children he left behind, we have been separated by grief. Lost in a world where our father is now gone. Not that he was the glue that held us together but more like a string that was loosely tied and fraying away. Our life has forever changed and a piece of our heart is gone. But there is one thing I do know for certain, he loved his children and grandchildren with whatever soul and heart he had. Keeping his memory alive is something that we should strive to do so that our children will know just how his love felt. The real sober love he gave us. The pain in our ass, the cowboy we knew, the “papa” to our children, the listening ear (because we all know he only had one left thanks to a certain donkey) is now watching over us.
Thank you to each and every family member, friend- whether mine, his or otherwise for anything and everything you all have done. I can’t even begin to explain my gratitude still to this day.
Little did we know when these pictures were taken on March 1st, 2015, it would be the day my dad took his last breath. You see, two years before on March 1st, 2013, my niece gained her wings and went to heaven. She was stillborn and from her 16 week term, we knew there was a chance of stillbirth. She didn’t know pain, hurt, hunger, or fear; one thing she did know was her mother’s love and the sound of her heartbeat. This year she would have been 6. In the same day we celebrate her birthday, we shall celebrate my dad’s life as well. With tears, cupcakes, fried chicken and a little song. They may be gone from Earth but ever present in our lives.
Addiction is a family disease. It doesn’t only hurt the addict- the entire family suffers. Seeking to help the one who is addicted can be tiresome because they may “see” they have a problem but haven’t fixed their minds to the seriousness of the problem. As much as you want to, you cannot fix their “problem” for them. Pointing out their faults, actively criticizing them will only push them further away from you and closer to their habit and their “friends”. When the habit is all you know, it’s how you live. Buried within the confines of the darkness called addiction. There is a way out.
But how do you help one you love when they aren’t ready for the help? What do you do when one that you would give your life for only denies their habit and insists they are better when clearly you know that they’re not? Or how about someone that you would walk to the ends of the earth for is busy soaking their sorrows in something that may only numb them for a time and the rest of the family is lost in what the “right thing to do” is?
Some who suffer from addiction are lucky enough to have a family who care and that try time and time again to help, assist and even support them- financially, emotionally and physically. When you love someone so much, you do it because you feel sorry for them, you feel guilty you can’t take away their addiction, pain or sorrow. The road to recovery isn’t easy at first. There will be speed bumps that will slow you down. There will be mountains you will have to conquer. There will be wide rolling rivers you will have to cross in a boat that is slowly sinking. More often than not, you will feel alone, stranded, bitter and deserted. If you help yourself, truly and give it all you’ve got until there is nothing left to give, others will notice and reach out to you.
There is a better life on the other side of the pain, the struggle, the addiction. There is more to a struggle than the pain it takes to get through it. There are blessings and peace awaiting you. There is strength and pride along with your sense of accomplishment. Just like learning to ride a bike or making it clear across the pool and back for the first time just so you can jump off the diving board- that feeling. The “I DID IT, ON MY OWN!” feeling. It increases the dopamine level in your brain that allows a natural high pushing you into your next goal.
I know too many who suffer from addiction. Now 1 within my immediate family circle. They seek to press blame, make excuses, speak more lies than truth and replace one habit with another- it saddens me because I know there is a bigger life out there for them. If only they could see it too. How can the blind lead the blind? When the addicted doesn’t want you to help them through their habit but merely to just enable them.
“If the addict is pleased with your help, you’re probably enabling them. If the addict is pissed as hell, you’re probably helping the person you love.” Piss them off; don’t enable.