Almost in tears. Hate my father – scratch that – hate who my father is – better. He’s got one foot off a cliff and wants me to pull him down to safety, as usual. And as usual, I probably pushed the other one off instead, with my words, which were as frustrated as he is. “Get help!” But that’s why he’s calling me.
Breathe deeply. Think about mountains in Tibet, waterfalls, rainbows, ice cream. Need to call him back. His cell phone rang in the middle of our heated conversation. He was on an edge, his voice high with emotion. I won’t say from the drugs he is on. “No-one cares. I’m worthless. It’s all wrong.”
“Is there something I can do?” There’s nothing I can do. “Maybe we should call Dr. R.” Dr. R is his psychiatrist. There’s nothing he can do.
He snaps like Hyde awaked from his long sleep. “I wasn’t asking for advice!”
Uh oh. I automatically open the freezer. “I wasn’t really offering any. I was just trying to help.”
Him, yelling, “You can stop trying to help! I wasn’t asking for help! Why do you always think I’m asking for help?!”
My heart beating with anxiety. -“Ooookay.” I wish there was someone else he could call.
That’s when his cell rang, which he tried to pick up, but somehow picked me up again instead. I know, two different phones, don’t expect things to make sense. Final words, “I can’t believe I screwed up again!” Sad, pitiful, and the phone goes dead. Tibet. Rainbows. Ice cream.
For me, It’s been over 20 years of pain. Over 20 years being the daughter of a man in pain. A sad man in pain. A suffering man in pain. The pain is in his body. The pain is in his head. The pain is in his heart.
We speak often. Too often for me, not often enough for him, and the calls are all desperation and need, cries for help and cries for attention.
Earlier today, he was grappling with his dwindling legacy. His fear of being considered a drug addict. Of what would be on his tombstone. For decades, he reinforced to me that he wanted his tombstone to say, “He rode the white horse.” He has quite the image of himself, romantic and dramatic, quite like him. Of course, for me at this point, the white horse is muddied, and after slumping over for a while, its rider fell off and not with a quick thump. He fell off howling, with his foot stuck in the stirrup and is still being dragged behind.
He casually mentions that if they found him at the base of a building that he wouldn’t have jumped, that it would have been an accident. You would think this mingling of tombstones and vague suicide talk would have me calling 911, but red flags barely get notice anymore. Those flags need to be shooting rocket fire to gather any real attention.
“So you now want your tombstone to say, “He didn’t jump?” I joked and he did something of a laugh. With a father like mine you look for levity wherever you can, even in suicide talk. “Yeah,” he says, the mood automatically lighter. “That works.”
In that one second, it all changed. It was better. “He didn’t jump off the white horse” He adds, “He was pushed!” And then, he’s laughing.
Where there is humor, there is hope. I’ll call him back now. We both need to laugh.