The Mighty Logo

Dear Daddy: We Never Had the Chance to Be OK

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Dear Daddy,

I should have seen it. The burger was just beginning to splash grease on the counter and I felt the sting of the lime on my finger where a cut was healing. Condiments were ready on the side, the tacos needed to go into the oven to bake.

When you hugged me, sobbing with such gutural sorrow, I could feel the tears soak my shirt and crack open my hardened heart; I now know you were saying goodbye. I knew a storm was coming, but felt like I was in the ocean being swept away by it all; because I had found a new dream and could see the blue skies and rainbows after the storms — and you all couldn’t or wouldn’t.

We should have made it. I know my leaving and being estranged hurt you. I died inside the day I let you all go. I held my head up high, you may not have seen me cry and I said I was good, but I would have fallen apart if I stayed. I left to save myself. I desperately wanted a life that was good, not with things, but a life that’s good and full of meaning and non-judgmental family and love that accepts me. It was me choosing to survive and break the cycle.

The biggest wave I’ve ever experienced has swept me away from you forever. I used to fight it but now I know I was being swept away to save myself to find a new lighthouse. I found it and was building new love, dreams, life — you now wanted to be swept away.

After years of estrangement I got the call to come home to help with you and mom. Things were not good physically and mentally. I tried to help and be there, but so many memories crashed all at once and the pain that shatters the heart that is supposed to be protected by those who gave you life. I forgot that pain, unprepared for the disastrous pain that was about to fall all on me.

* * *

I got home tired and overwhelmed by all the emotions, feelings, memories I had worked so hard to conquer. I grabbed the bags and began to make tacos for our lunch, it was already 2 p.m. Tired, cranky, I just wanted a moment to have a normal task and accomplish it.

“Where the hell are my drugs? I told you people kill themselves if they can’t get this.” I lost my patience, “Daddy they are in the car. I cannot be in 10 places at once. I will get them after lunch. It cannot always just be about you.” As soon as the words left my mouth I felt bad and heard you shuffle and slam the door.

Unsure whether you were coming out to hurt us or just hurt yourself, I grabbed mom and took her to the car, driving about a half mile down the country road while calling 911. Everyone said to stay away, but I was so obsessed with your struggling, I told mom to stay put and ran in my favorite black heels and jumper up the hill to the house.

Grabbing the outside doorknob I felt like the whole world was crashing around me — I would find you dead or even worse, you suffering. I hoped you had not made your mind up yet and were just sitting with that droopy, kind face.

“Daddy, I love you and I am coming in. I am trusting you will not hurt me.”

The silence told me all I needed to know.

His body that had betrayed him in life, at peace on his bed. I touched his
long legs that again failed him in life and told him I was sorry he was in pain. He needed to be swept away with no life raft.

I closed the door, went to the kitchen, heard the sizzle of burger and smell of burnt taco shells, and went and turned them off. I slumped to the ground I cried in shock realizing he was gone. I told myself out loud, “He is dead, I cannot do anything anymore but now I have to pull myself together and take care of all the shrapnel that follows.”

Dealing with insults sharper than knives from my estranged brother and EMT, thinking mom was having another heart attack, I felt it was almost too much to take. I took a breath and thought of you swept away to a new place where your skies are a beautiful blue and you could adventure with no more pain. I felt the scar you left turned it upside down yet again. I’m burning to ashes again if anyone else asks, it hurts a little. I will rebuild and fill in those cracks although it hurts a little.

Running around and taking care of a hundred things, one of the EMT and sheriff deputies asked, “Are you OK? No one is helping you, this is a lot on you.”

“I don’t get the chance to be OK, I have never had that chance with this family.”

I wanted to fall in a heap, scream, cry and have one of these men who knew nothing of me just hug me and say you will be OK.

It’s hard to navigate when the people who gave you life throw words that are sharper than knives and you feel like you are on different sides of a battlefield. When it seems they only bring you black roses that crumble when held. I had left their spell years ago and it was so hard to break then you are shoved back into the battlefield.

Now, I have forever swept away from my dad. My skies are blue, but sometimes when you see me smile, know sometimes it hurts just a little.

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

Originally published: April 1, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home