My dad texted me a few days ago to inform me he was moving out of the house he’d lived in since 1981 and that I needed to tell him what to do with my childhood toys.
“Okay. Thank you,” I texted back to the person who gave me life like it was a business transaction.
I asked Zac, my long-time Iowa friend, if he’d pick up my stuff when the time came.
Then today my dad called while I was working my recess program.
“Shit,” I thought to myself. “Is this going to be a fight? Should I ignore this?”
The filthy feeling of slow abuse unraveling an emotional bond slithered through my nervous system as I rounded up 3rd graders.
“What if my program ends after this year? Will I ever get to work with kids again? They’ve probably already contacted the competitor.” My mind projected out of control as I reacted to my interpretations instead of reality.
“Whoa, dude. Get a hold of yourself,” my stronger side fought back.
I rode my moped home, dreading the decision I’d already made on a layer I wanted to bury.
“It’s another growth thing—something I have to do to get to the next level,” I told myself.
I threw on some motivational Youtube videos and pushed the call button.
A baby boomer’s Midwestern drawl rolled out a, “Yeeeelllo,” that had no spite in it.
“I made arrangements for Zac to pick up my stuff,” I blurted to my father as a greeting.
“Okay. I don’t know when I’ll have your things ready, but is there anything I should look for?”
“Umm…my wrestling magazines and Ninja Turtle action figures.”
“Okay. I’ll look for them and put them aside.”
As my internal shield sensed no battles were going to happen, life’s powerful connection between a father and son forced me to see if there’d be more conversing.
For the next 30 minutes I listened as my father spewed his past 2 years to me—things about his wife’s kids that were wildly depressing, but he did it with an honest self-reflection I’d never heard before.
“I should have never raised kids because I failed at it horribly.”
You just said that…
And I’m not mad at it…
I’m happy you’re there…
Respectable self-reflection from a man who once had a Satanic bible for a reason I still haven’t found.
All the mornings of medicating an honest pain with a blanket of sewn lies, all the knives of exposed trauma scrapping across my defenseless brain, all my warped viewpoints wrestling free from the basement of my self-esteem like rotten pillars of a shifting house, all the emotional blocks unclogging at the same time like hundreds of muscle knots being hammered at once, all the tornadoes of an old psychology dry heaving from a lifeless body, and all the reference points of a shedded identity falling through an unknown fear like broken rip cords of a faulty parachute—if I would have repeated the cycle of dysfunction, if I would have committed suicide that time in 2013, I would have murdered a life that didn’t deserve it.
I would have killed living proof that the universe’s plan is stronger than human pain.
I spent my whole life thinking the shitty decisions I made during a period of my life were because of me. I didn’t make bad, negative choices as an adult; I made them as a fucked-up teen then got better as an adult. On my own. Intrinsically driven to bring the beauty of my inner life to the world, becoming a better person along the way.
“Alright, Dad. Well, I need to go.”
“Okay. Well, I love you.”
“Love you, too, Dad.”
Today, my dad’s voice wasn’t the voice of an emotional terrorist, an abuser of substances, or a guy using the evils of the world to shift an 8-year-old’s emotional state, it was the tone of a 36-year-old single dad who would take his son to Toys R Us as the last stop on their Friday night grocery run so his little boy could pick out any toy under $10.
“Brandon, here’s the new Ultimate Warrior figure.”
“Oh, no way.”
If I wouldn’t have called him today, I wouldn’t have remembered that voice.
Closure can begin.