My dad has always been a little bit strange. When I was two years old, my parents got divorced, and I spent the next eight years traveling back and forth from their separate households. I spent Wednesday nights and every other weekend making forts and staying up late with my dad and our big chocolate lab Buzz.
My family life seemed normal enough. However, my father has always had a few responsibility issues and at least a quarter of the time my plans with him fell through. Many a time, the glass window by my mom’s front door was completely fogged up as I sat patiently with my face pressed against the cold glass, waiting. I would usually give him an hour and a half grace period before I gave up all together and left my post by the front window. By age five I could have compiled a textbook full of all the excuses my dad fed to me. I would go weeks, even months, without talking to him. Sometimes without even knowing where he was.
Nonetheless, my dad was my hero– my knight in shining armor. I adored him, and I knew he loved me back. I was okay with the fact that he lived alone, and his best friend was our dog. I also didn’t mind that we never left his house because he just ‘wasn’t a people person.’ I was even content when he fell asleep watching T.V. and I spent the rest of our “quality time” drawing pictures and making cookies by myself in his kitchen. I accepted these drawbacks because I was grateful simply for the time I got with him. I was grateful for our two person, one-dog baseball games, the feeling his beard made on my cheek when I gave him a bear hug, and the satisfaction I got from doing everything in my power to make him proud.
This all changed soon enough when his situation began to deteriorate even more. When I was ten years old, he told me that it was time for him to sell his house and move farther out into the country. This sounded like an adventure, and I immediately began planning exactly what my new bedroom would look like. Unfortunately, the reason he “chose” to move was because his house was being confiscated by the state. Over the next three years I saw my dad less and less, and couldn’t understand why it seemed as if he was avoiding me. The summer of my sophomore year he disappeared all together. I heard from him briefly about eight months later before he vanished yet again.
I turned to my mom for answers. She decided that it was finally time for me to know the truth. She reluctantly sat me down on the faded couch in our four-season porch to tell me that my dad was a drug-addict. He had been struggling with drug abuse issues since the day she met him thirty years earlier. I asked her what drug he was dependent on and received my answer: Crystal Meth. Finally, my childhood made sense. There were periods of time when my dad was completely stable but even more times when things weren’t looking very good. This was one of those periods, and my mom hesitantly admitted that he seemed to be worse now than she had ever seen him.
I don’t exactly know what the proper way is to cope with finding out that your own father is addicted to Crystal Meth, but nothing seemed to work for me. I couldn’t understand how my dad had lied to me my entire childhood, and I didn’t know if I even wanted to talk to him ever again. I changed my mind and spent countless hours calling his various acquaintances, trying desperately to gain some fraction of information as to his whereabouts. I got my answer a few months later when I was informed that my father was sitting in Wright County jail with the charge of Possession of Illegal Substances. I returned to the mindset of not wanting to ever see his face. He had already spent over a month in jail, as he was too embarrassed to call any of his family members for help.
The next few months of seeing him were even harder for me than his disappearance. I watched as my aunt and uncle gave him clothes, a bed to sleep in, and a second chance. I decided that if they were strong enough to possibly be let down by my father one more time, so was I.
As time passed, my dad’s condition improved. His hands stopped shaking uncontrollably when he tried to eat, he began to put a small amount of weight back on, the color slowly returned to his face, and the dark circles under his eyes began to fade away. He began working for my uncle’s construction company and shortly after built an apartment for himself on my uncle’s land.
So far, almost a year later, my dad is still one hundred percent clean. He is back to being to himself, which I admit is still a little bit strange, but I have regained the father that I had missed out on through all of my years growing up. Even good people make bad choices. The best thing we can do is to recognize our mistakes, apologize for them, and try to improve our lives for the better.
My dad is genuine, hard-working, loving, and is through and through a good person. He has done some bad things, made mistakes and bad choices. He has apologized, beat himself up over his past, and desperately tried to turn his life around. I have accepted my father’s downfalls and moved on. I am confident in knowing that my dad is a wholly decent person despite his past mistakes, and I can fall asleep at night with the reassurance that any one person is capable of turning his/her life around no matter what, in order to regain the goodness that he/she lost somewhere along the way.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.