Remembering Dad

father son woods

I laid there in bed, thinking. It had been three years since my dad was lively and happy. A terrible bout with depression was taking a toll on him, and thus our family, over that time span. Lucky for me, I went to college out of town. I came home on breaks, as well as weekends when I could, but I had my own life now. And every time I went home, I would build up walls and keep myself at a distance from all the problems in the family, because I didn't think I could take it. This particular summer, I had arranged for a job near school, so I could escape the emotions of returning to an unhappy home.

As I laid there in my childhood bed, the night before returning to my apartment for the summer, I broke down in tears. How could I be so selfish? How could I leave my mom and dad all alone to deal with this? How could I pretend that I didn't need to bear some of the responsibility of helping out? The years of denial came out in my tears that night, and I knew I couldn't continue on pretending. I was going to help as much as I could, even if that was only a small baby-step.

That next day, I told my dad over breakfast, firmly, that we were going to clean his room, and I was going to help him. My mom had been begging him for a year to clean his room, because it was in such disarray. The doctors said taking proactive steps like that would help him feel better about himself, and maybe chip away at what was wrong with him. But he never wanted to listen. Stubbornly, he never actually took those steps. Much to my surprise, he actually smiled, and said "Ok," to my suggestion.

That day we went through years of old trash and documents. Newspapers from 10 years ago, computer games from elementary school. We worked together the entire day. All he needed was a firm kick in the butt to get him moving, and then he was able to take charge, looking happier than I had seen in months. By the time the day was over, his room was sparkling. Now we could all go back there and watch television together, just like childhood, though that would unfortunately have to wait until my next visit home. More importantly, now my dad had done something to help himself, and was a little happier. And I had helped him.

It was time to leave though. I had a great job lined up, and had already given up a good night's rest on the first day of work by helping my dad all afternoon. I really hugged my dad as I said goodbye, for the first time in years. And as I hugged my mom goodbye, she whispered "Thank you so much" in my ear. This is still a story in progress, so I can't report that everything is all better now. But my fingers are crossed because now there is a lot more hope, and hope is very powerful.

by Matt Blass copyright 2002, all rights reserved