Hi there. This is the last day I will dwell on this subject. If you just found me, this is the third day on my porch talking about my father. Please join me. Why am I telling all this? I figure there may be others out there who went through similiar depression and I want to spread a message that there is hope when the story ends.
The skin on my thighs were turning hard from leaning against the sides of the freezer. I kept hoping the oxygen would run out so I would just lose consciousness. Evidently, with the lid not locked there was just enough air seeping through to keep me alive . I tried to close my eyes and let the cold, black space consume me. It was a familiar feeling.
Do you believe in guardian angels? I do. S/he kept nudging me and finally when I realized I wasn’t going to pass out, I opened the lid and climbed back out. I could have so easily found the twine to lock the handle. I put my clothes back on and sat in a chair. I finally decided maybe I shouldn’t be in the house by myself so I walked across the street where a caretaker lived with our elderly neighbor. When I told her what I had done, she called my father and aunt who both came home from work. It was the first time my father had ever left work early.
The doctor was called and came to the house and we all sat down to talk. We were sitting on the couch and my father put his arm around my shoulders and asked me what was wrong. He didn’t have a clue. The revulsion was physical and immediate. After my entire life of wanting hugs and kisses, when he did show some concern, my stomach turned and I silently wrenched away.
It was decided I would spent the night at the hospital under observation. The ward was full so I was on a gurney in the dayroom since a room was not available. The next day it was determined I could go back home under the direction of a psychiatrist. Nothing had changed. Nothing was discussed at home. The whole thing just didn’t happen.
The following Monday I went back to school and told no one. The next Friday I was in the school musical in the chorus performing “Finigan’s Rainbow”. No one had a clue. I even delivered my one line, “Come and get your spaghetti with two meat balls”, albeit not with a very enthusiastic voice.
I visited with the psychiatrist three times. He gave me a battery of tests, including an IQ test (what? I must be dumb to pull such a stunt?). The next visit after talking to him he visited with my father. The third visit, in all his wisdom, he said, “”You don’t have a problem. It’s all with your father. You don’t need me. I need to see him.”
I wanted to shout, “What do you mean? I tried to end my life! I’m a wreck!” But I didn’t. My father refused to seek help. I couldn’t get the help I needed. I was stuck. Life went on. In the fall I went away to college. I got a letter from him about every six weeks or so. No phone calls. No visits to the campus.
The next summer I transferred to another school and was in summer school when I got a message that he had had a heart attack. I took the train home and when I walked into his hospital room he acted very surprised and asked why I was home. I thought I saw a glimmer that he might have been glad to see me but I wasn’t sure. We visited for a short time and the next morning I was back on the train. I finished the summer and he slowly recovered enough to go back to work.
I was in a nursing program and there was a capping ceremony in the fall. He of course didn’t come. My aunt and her cousin drove up to Chicago to be there for me. My heart ached that my father couldn’t or wouldn’t come. I wanted to show him that despite my childhood I was achieving my dream. I felt so completely lonely in spite of the happy occasion. Others in the class were surrounded by friends and relatives. Right after the ceremony I was driven back to the dorm and my aunt went back home.
There is much more in between but I’ll skip to my senior year in college. I changed majors and came back home to attend the school in town. It was spring again, April, and I was busy with my boyfriend and lots of papers and school projects. I had started and was the first president of a new women’s organization on campus. My father was hospitalized again but I was told that he was doing all right. He had congestive heart failure by this time.
I thought about driving downtown to see him but I was busy so I remember saying, “I’ll go tomorrow.” That night my aunt and I were preparing for bed. The phone rang and all I heard my aunt say was, “Oh, he did. OK”. She stayed in her room and said, “Annie, your dad died.” It was like saying, “Annie, the paper’s here.” or “Annie, dinner’s ready.” Her voice was flat. There was no emotion at all. Not one speck.
I’ll save the funeral for another time. To this day I remember thinking I wanted to talk to my father in the hospital and actually ask him if he ever really loved me. To ask him if he could ever forgive me for living instead of my mother. To ask him what happened between the two of us. But I didn’t. Now I couldn’t. He took those answers to the grave with him.
Whenever the topic of relationships with parents rises I always tell whoever is talking to take the time now to resolve those issues. Even if a person is estranged from a father, it still hurts when they die, especially if you are twenty-one.
I have been plagued with bouts of depression throughout my entire life. It is just coming to light how early trauma if unresolved can lead to lifelong problems. In my case I have always felt remote and disconnected. There has been a numbness that will not go away. In my sixth decade of life I am finally in a position to examine and deal with those feelings, but it has been a long road. It’s almost like having PTSD for an entire life, but there is hope and help available. Fortunately there are many web sites now available.
I’m blogging a poem I wrote warning fathers to love their young daughters. If I could get that message out and change one young girl’s life, it would be worth it. All of my past would have served a purpose and I could be at peace within. Namaste. Attic Annie