I have a complicated set of emotions around the word ‘dad’.
I did not grow up with my own father in my life and when I did get to know him, the mysteries of who he was, the fantasy of who I thought he was – nothing got resolved in the few years we had together before he died in 2004.
I often said my dad was an uncomplicated man, that he had simple tastes and a simple life. I knew when I said those things that was untrue but it helped me to be okay with the fact that he never revealed much of himself to me.
After he tried to take his life, there was no denying that he was not only complicated but haunted. Depressed. A man without hope. He had lost his eyesight, his livelihood and his business.
It was not the first time he had lost his way. I hoped he could find a new purpose for living.
Cancer found him instead.
One of the last conversations I had with my dad was when he was heavily sedated, due to the cancer ravaging his body. He yelled at me to go to my room and do my homework.
This was a hallucination, not a memory. Later that day, one of my cousins came by and dad said “find me a goddamn scotch”. I had a glimpse of the angry, bitter man my mother left back in the 1960s.
Dad stopped drinking in his 30s, when he was diagnosed with diabetes, but the man he was then was resurfacing in his final days, under the wrong conditions.
A day or so later, dad had them dial back the sedation. We took him out of palliative care to sit in his chair at home, watching sports on his big screen tv, with family surrounding him as we ate Thanksgiving dinner.
We had to carry him out of the house to the car.
After we took him back to care, we said goodbye. Not so long. But goodbye.
He again went under heavy medication and he never came back.
My chance to know him is gone; what I hold on to is the fleeting feeling I had that we mattered to each other.