One Last Conversation with Dad

Written by Charles Price on April 2, 2012

This story was submitted by my new friend, Charles Price, who co-owns and blogs for The Taste of Oregon website in Eugene, Oregon. I met Charles at fellow writer Crescent Dragonwagon’s recent Deep Feast writers’ workshop in Seattle. We hit it off immediately, and after a series of Facebook messages, discovered we are both alums of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas!

Charles sent this beautifully written story about his father, along with two nostalgic photos. I welcome Charles to the Five More Minutes With family, and know you will appreciate his thoughtful words as much as I do. Thanks, Charles!

One Last Conversation with Dad

“Dad”…………………. “Dad!”

Hearing myself say “Dad” just now was much easier than I expected. I’m so grateful that you can hear me call you Dad and feel so right with it. The last time I said your name to your face I was calling you “Daddy” and just beginning to feel awkward with that.

On the day you left us, Jimmy Chapin and I were casually strolling home from school on an otherwise beautiful March afternoon. I noticed Mr. Tucker’s 1955 Pontiac coming toward us. He didn’t pass and wave. As he slowed and pulled toward us, the first thing I saw was my mother crying. This isn’t good, I thought.

Mr. Tucker opened the back door and I got in. A handkerchief was passed over the front seat. “Your Daddy’s dead!” my mother said as best she could.

I was 12 and you were a mere 52. I was on the brink of my teens and then……… a blink and you were gone. Forever!

Wait….WAIT! We’re not through. NO! NO! NO! I cried in my mind.

Then the voices arrived… many voices. I never really heard voices as such; it was more of a constant humming that blurred my reality.

Everything about this day was different. Time slowed down. My swollen eyes were like magnifying glasses, selectively enlarging this and that at random. My hearing was like that, too.

Then a deep, cold, and thundering voice boomed through the chaos in my head, “He’s gone! Dead! Deal with it! It’s your fault and you know it!”

All those times I was so angry with you that I mentally wished you dead began swirling about my mind like ghosts with gossamer fingers pointed at me. I began crying uncontrollably and could no longer see through the tears.

The events of your last day with us are engraved in my memory in minute detail, frozen forever for me to visit anytime.

We made it through the weekend, your funeral, into the grieving, and eventually the healing.

Do you remember the day you came home from work, and I invited you into the backyard to see something I had made? I had taken some bricks I found in the garage and, with the help of a shovel, made shallow holes so the bricks rested flush with the surface of the ground in four places, diamond-shaped. It was my juvenile “Field of Dreams.” I was about 9 and wanted to play baseball with you.

Sometime in the week before, I was goaded into playing softball with the boys in the neighborhood. I said yes in a desperate attempt to quiet their questioning my masculinity. And after all, who needed them for that?  I was doing a terrific job on my own.

Am I out of my mind? I thought. I’ve stepped into something that will prove forever my ineptitude with sports.

My tormentors were eager to put me on the spot. I don’t know what happened to me but when I stepped up to bat, I hit that ball dead on and knocked it clear over Mrs. Darby’s roof and beyond. I know I didn’t gloat, but I’m sure I puffed up a bit.

I remember how much you loved music and wish you could have experienced my musical years. I was a budding clarinetist when you passed on. Even my choice of clarinet was based on my fear of sports. My first choice was violin but marching bands don’t use violins. Marching bands are, however, a substitute for gym class and sports. Safety in the clarinet!

I know you remember how well I did in school; straight A’s for six years in a row. My only blemish was a negative check in “self control” somewhere in there. Me, caught out of control? Me, who could go to parties and no one would know I was there? Oh well, must’ve been a sudden urge for attention and so unlike me….at least then.

It would be years before I would even notice that my fall from A’s to B’s, C’s, and worse happened right after your death.

During those years, my feelings for you grew cold, buried deep in resentment. I had enough on you to resent you for the rest of my life. My feelings were easily hurt, and you knew just where those buttons were. I thought your spankings were hard and cruel. I resented your weekend drinking, and felt embarrassed to be seen with you. You were also older than my friends’ fathers. Their moms and dads were in their 30s. I hated you! No wonder I was gay, with an example like you.

You were my excuse for all my shortcomings. After all, how could a person with a father like you succeed?

Pretending to be straight when you’re not is like walking a tightrope; one slip and your weakness is exposed. I convinced myself that I was merely in a phase that would pass on when I met the “right” girl. Surprise, Charles, it’s not a phase. It’s very real. Get used to it!

It would be about another twenty years before I chose to do something different about my life. I was in my late 30s and having a mid-life crisis. One of my very dearest friends, Barbara Grove, had recently attended a multi-weekend self-help workshop, which was then called The Life Training. Now it’s called More To Life.

I explained to her the depth of my despair and asked if this would be good for me. “Most assuredly,” she told me.

There was (and is) nothing religious about this course, even though two Episcopal priests created it. It is, however, deeply spiritual.

There was a great deal of sharing, which scared me to death. There’s no way I’m going to let strangers see the crap in my heart, my unworthiness, and ultimately that I am a freak.

I stayed with it for both weekends as I had promised Barbara. I spent much of the workshop dealing with my issues with you, Dad. I was given a process where I could express my deep anger for you in a safe way that harmed no one. My, my, my – just expressing the anger freed up a fresh space big enough to fill with something of value: the truth.

With the help of other processes, I uncovered the truth about you:

  • You did the best you could with what you had
  • You loved your family, including me
  • Like everyone on this earth, you had your own mental dragons to slay
  • You were, simply put, as you were – perfection – the perfect father for me

It was at this time that I got a grasp on forgiveness and its power to release self-inflicted shackles. I left the training much more whole. However, it would another twelve years before I had an epiphany and busted my shackles of resentment for you forever.

It was my own 52nd year. Vic, my lifemate since 1990, and I had relocated to Baltimore from Texas. It was a beautiful fall afternoon; I was on the floor of the living room in the middle of yet another forgiveness process with you. This one was deep and with an extra large helping of emotion. Just at the conclusion, an image of you appeared before my mind’s eye. It was the same image I conjured up during all the processes I had done before. Only this time, it was captioned:

“I deserve a loving place in your heart.”

I heard you! And so, Dad, you have it.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad