Tuesday, September 27th 2016 – 10:32 am
Can unresolved rage kill a man before his time?
What if he ran out of sand to spell his story?
What if a boy grew up to become
His Monster’s son?
The last time I saw my father, I hugged him tight to me. His frail and now familiar frame pulled effortlessly to me, like a rag doll. One that evoked such terror at one time.
This was a year and a half ago. It was in March of 2015.
He had not yet gone into ICU and onto life support where he to this day remains. That came a few months later, but never ended. Will it end before I do? He has been on a ventilator for over a year now.
That March, I looked straight at my father and I told him, “I love you, dad”.
His eyes lit up and he looked more alert. We had only told each other that we loved each other a few times over the last few years. At my insistence. At my example and stubborn rebellion against his.
I said it again, impatient with his lack of response above a shocked look.
In his shiny new hospice quality bed, shipped straight from the New York VA hospital, he wobbled his face and eyes toward mine and barely gasped out the vowels.
“I uhh ooh…”
That was the last time I heard his voice above a whisper.
But not above an echo.
His eyes also lit up and looked more alert the very first time he saw me hug and kiss both my young daughter and toddler son and tell them that I loved them. He looked shocked and confused. Good.
This was two decades ago.
Amy and I dropped Brittany and Austin off to be babysat for the first and almost last time.
I was on the phone to them just a few hours later, both screaming and whispering.
Guess… which voice is scarier?
“If you ever scream and cuss like that in front of them even one more time, I swear to God… I swear to God… I will never drop them off again. Do you… listen to me… do you understand me?” I calmly asked.
You see, “do you understand me?” was a question that Amy and I always ended our correction to the children with.
Every time. We talked. With them.
We reasoned. With them. Not at them. We listened to them. The phrase signified we were parting after having clearly spoken AND listened to one another.
But for me and the caged demons that will never die, it also signified that I was done trying to reason with you, if you had not gotten it already. It flagged that I demand you yield to me or things were going to get ugly and probably even bloody. Dad taught that language so very well. I know every fucking bloody word, accent and dialect.
You want to hear some?
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE WERE SCREAMING AND CUSSING THAT IS FUCKING BULLSHIT HOW FUCKING DARE Y………!!!!”
“Listen to me carefully,” I interrupted. My voice had gotten much quieter. Some people warn you that you better not “make me raise my voice”. Don’t make me lower mine. Mine always gets quieter before the demon.
Don’t worry. He is really caged now. In my lame and feeble frame.
“I’ll say it one more time. You will not babysit your grandchildren even one more time if you scare the shit out them with your screaming and cussing. I swore to God they would not see that fucking bullshit. See, now you have me cussing again goddammit. Amy and I have discussions and even disagreements. We do not have fucking SCREAMING MATCHES!”
Now I was cussing and screaming.
The eye of the storm was passing.
Something crawled out of its box.
My voice became the whisper. The evil one before the explosion in its native tongue.
“Do not scream and cuss in front of them again or you won’t babysit them again.”
“Do. You. Understand. Me.”
The next time we dropped them off, my dad’s eyes widened again at my kiss and embrace of my small son. My father walked over and awkwardly wrapped his arms around me and for the first time in his life, he said, “I love you, son”.
He whispered it and his voice even wavered in the ultimate doubt. How could someone simply choose to do something they have never done before? Was it allowed? Who allowed such things, if anyone? Was he being watched and condemned by every ghost and every bully and truly manly man he’d ever met?
I said, “I love you too.”
I heard my dad’s echo this morning in my every faltering phrase.
My voice is becoming a whisper again. It is no longer rage.
I could not form one perfect sentence for Amy today. I tried again and again. I just asked her moments ago if Devin visited me yesterday or an hour ago.
I saw my father’s shadow this morning in the mirror and above my wobbling walker.
My feet are no longer my own, as the muscles eat away and refuse to respond to command, involuntary or otherwise.
It is no longer the poison of the never ending fight instinct. I was told to aim for walls and not the damn doors, next time. But I can’t aim for anything.
My Father does. The monsters do.
My huge bruise on my leg is turning brown now. I almost broke my knee in my black out that day. I heard dad so loud and clear that ugly morning.
When was that again? Was that a week or two ago? Was that a few days ago?
Dad would remember.
I just texted Amy, very concerned that my condition had quickly turned south again today, just an hour after she had gone to her appointment. This has been a very bad day and we are not yet to noon. I am so sick.
My hands just curl up like bloody stumps. I can’t wash it off. All the damage they once caused and yet refused to pass on to my own son.
I cannot speak. To her. In full. Sentences.
When I can focus, I painfully unfurl the mallets that bashed faces and now mashed keys.
We’re going to rush the scheduling of getting back into the next specialist.
I just got off the phone with the first specialist. Someone will be calling me back for follow up within the next few hours. The phone call was painful and the psychiatrist that seemed so precise and cold weeks before dropped her guard. I heard concern in her voice. It slowed down. The pitch was less monotone and distant and professional. She was a person for a moment.
Not one sentence I spoke over the phone to her sounded like the Patrick who sat in her office just a few weeks ago.
Now it sounds just like my dad.
I’m becoming silent and still like my father.
It is normal and natural for such a controlled explosion.
But this is something so very new for me.
I keep turning inside and listening for the whisper within.
I know I can find the eye in the storm again.
It’s my heart and home.
I have heard my Father’s voice there one time
I can never forget the sound.
I will forget everything else and even my own name.
But not His.
Never will I forget that night I heard his voice.
It was not a scream or a whisper.
It was the perfect volume for a young man, long deaf and dumb.
And I remember hearing him.
He told me once that he loved me.