Around 6:30 on a hot Houston Saturday morning my Mother burst into my room calmly telling me that my Father had experienced a stroke and she needed my help getting him into the car. An ambulance would have taken to long, for we lived in an isolated neighborhood roughly twenty-five miles away from downtown and at least twenty minutes from the nearest hospital. I offered to go to the hospital with them; my Mom declined my offer and told me to go back to bed. Somehow, I managed to go back to sleep, only to be awoken by the phone-my Mom informed me that the situation was graver than she feared and that my Father was being airlifted to another area hospital that was better equipped to handle his illness. I was to get ready for the day and she would be coming home to shower and dress and we would go to the hospital together. I was waiting at the door when she arrived home. I spent the next half an hour just trying to take care of little details – anything to keep me busy – gathering up cell phones, my Mom’s phone book, getting cash from the ATM, and getting gas. Finally we were on our way.
The day felt surreal, as if I was having one of those horribly vivid nightmares and soon I would awaken. I had not even cried yet. Granted, my Sister and I were raised to be emotionally strong and independent, the truth was I really had not come to grasp what was happening around me and crying would only make reality set in. Yeah, we would threaten my Dad that something like this would happen if he did not at least cut down on the cigarettes, quit his stressful job, and stop with the vodka. Now the threats were coming true-something I could still not fathom. I guess my Father, thought of himself as an unstoppable juggernaut. Looking back I thing we believed it as well.My Father and I didn’t always get along, he did not even really get to know me until I was eighteen years old, even though I lived under his roof. Something like a stroke seemed unthinkable even though we did not see eye-to-eye I held my Father up on a pedestal and I had a great deal of respect for him. As independent as I was, I still tried to do whatever I could to make my parents happy, to make my parents proud of me, and most of all to make my Father notice me.
Sitting in a hospital drives me crazy, I always feel so absolutely useless. I cannot handle the white walls, easy listening music, and the hunting and fishing magazines in the waiting rooms – and not to mention the smell. The smell is nauseating, it is if people were trying to clean death. Sitting in the waiting room made me angry. How dare my Father put my Mother through this? What am I supposed to say to my Sister and Grandmother? To me it seemed, that this was somehow Dad’s fault. Once again, he had picked vodka over his family. It was not that my Father did not love us, nor was he a bad provider. Actually my Mother, Sister, and I were very lucky in some respects. It is just that my Father could be very selfish.
My Father did recover from his stroke. My family felt that this experience would definitely be the wakeup call my Father needed to realize what was truly important in his life. Stasi had to return to Virginia, she felt guilty leaving my Mom and I to deal with all of this, but she had her husband and her life to get back to. Of course I did what I could to help out my Mom. Fortunately, I had a wonderful job with a manager and owners that really cared about me. I was able to take a few weeks off from work to take care of my Dad once he was released, and when he started his outpatient rehabilitation I was able to manipulate my schedule so that I could take him and pick him up every day. Everything was working out just fine until my Father got his driver’s license back.
I told him that if started drinking again I would leave. He promised me he would not drink because his family meant too much to him. The very next day, I came home and found him passed out with a glass of vodka in his hand. People say you cannot smell vodka, maybe not most people, but if you are the child of an alcohol you can. You also cringe every time you hear the hinges on the liquor cabinet door squeak and you learn to hate the sound of ice machines. I was livid, this was the last time my Father was going to pick alcohol over me, this was the last time he was going to hurt me. So I threw his precious glass of Absolute on him and told him to, “GO TO HELL!” That was the last time I spoke to my Father until he entered a rehab center. My Father thought that this was enough and I would not actually leave, he was wrong.
This whole horrible ordeal had me playing the role I always played in life; me trying to please the people I cared about. That is how I ended up moving to Texas in the first place. It was time for a change though; it was time for me to start living for me. At twenty-four years old I finally realized that the only person in life I have to answer to is myself. At twenty-five I realized that no matter how much somebody loves you they are only human, and sometimes they will disappoint you. I am almost twenty-six now and I am happier with my life, and myself than I have ever been. This is how I ended up living in Richmond, Virginia. Sometimes I want to thank my Father for giving me that push I think I needed to do what I needed to do for me. November 19th will be the one-year anniversary of my Father’s death. I love my Father and I know that he is proud of me.
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