Sunday, June 13, 2010

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More from the essay about my dad

There were a few scattered weeks when Mom stopped yelling and said nothing at all. During these times she’d sometimes be seen wandering through the house in cut off sweat pants and an old GAP t-shirt like a lost and lonely runaway. But mostly she stayed behind a locked bedroom door while Dad made a bed in the living room. The quiet times always started with an argument, like when Mom confronted Dad about bouncing checks at pharmacies. She drew her face close to his, screaming louder, hoping to break through to him, as he sat on the sofa, fingers peeling dry flakes of skin from his lips, too lost inside himself to care. “I’m tired,” She said. “Run yourself into the ground. I don’t care anymore.” She rubbed her hands across the front of her blouse, looking weary.

During these moments of total silence between them, Dad always slipped into a depression and further into his addiction. Perhaps it was in these silent moments, as Mom lay alone in her bedroom longing for the man that could so easily make her giggle, that Dad took a moment to reflect. And maybe in that moment, as he looked at the loose skin around his neck, and protruding cheek bones, he started to understand what he was becoming, but like anyone with an addiction, he chose to take more pills rather then change.

It was during one of these silent times, just after my 8th birthday, that Dad drove me to a wrestling match at Provo High School, swerving across lanes, hands trembling, head sagging forward at stoplights. Until then, this was the worst I’d ever seen him. He rested the front wheel of his Ford pickup on a parking island and the tailgate reached over the yellow line. We entered the match and Dad sat towards the top of the bleachers next to the handrail, a black twenty-foot fall to his right. I watched him from the sideline as his head kept sagging forward, hands showing no effort to reach forward and slow his decent. I worried that he might fall from the bleachers. Going into the first match, my eyes never left Dad. My opponent grabbed me and I went limp, falling to the mat, arching my head back to keep Dad in view. He sagged further with each dip of his head and I was angry with the referee for counting so slowly.

I left the match and sat next to Dad on the bleachers. His head dipped forward and then rolled back, his eyes drooping. I shook his shoulder, and he drew in a deep slurping breath. “Hey,” he said with a grin. “What am I doing way up here?” I sat out the rest of the competition next to Dad, grabbing him by the shoulders every time he dipped further than what seemed safe. I placed my palm on his chest, pushing him back, and I recall feeling that I was the only person still trying to protect him.