Friday, June 13, 2008

The Hero

The day my Daddy saved my life.It is October, 2002. I am in my house in Eustis, Florida. My precious wife, Charlotte, is at work. I am alone. For the past year, I have been sick. Like some horrible, perverse, cosmic joke, my body's immune system, normally my defense against illness, has been fighting against itself, betraying me like some Judas delivering me to my tormentors.

In the course of that year, as I have fought an unknown enemy, I have in turn lost my career as a stockbroker, my faith, and the happy exterior of my marriage has crumbled before my eyes, leaving an empty husk. I am angry. Angry at God. Angry at my wife and myself because our marriage has suddenly turned in against itself the same way my own immune system has sold me out. Angry at what has happened to me – I'm only 36 years old! This isn't supposed to be happening to me.

But it was. And I was powerless.

By October, thanks to a wonderful doctor I finally found after much searching, some of my physical symptoms were improving somewhat. At the same time, all I could see were the ruins of what had once been my life, taunting me, tormenting me.

I have settled into an angry despair, and all I want is to die. I hope this stupid illness will just go ahead and finish what's it's started.

If it doesn't, and it gets too bad, I wonder if I will do it myself.

This October afternoon, I am in such physical and emotional pain that all I can think about is that hidden in my desk, unknown to Charlotte, is my loaded pistol. All I have to do is get to the desk, open the drawer, and this pain can all be over. It is a selfish thought, one that causes me to cringe as I write these words; but it is the only thought I could conjure that day.

Except this one: my Daddy, who works all over the country, happens this month to be working in Orlando, about an hour away.

So instead of opening the desk drawer, I pick up the phone. I get his voicemail, and leave some message that I hope sounds casual that “I was just hoping to talk to you, that's all.”

I am in such pain, I can't even manage the clarity, or perhaps the courage (perhaps a perverse description of such an intention), to make it to the drawer. I remain in bed, where I have been much of the past year, curled up with my pain like a secret lover.

Half an hour later, my Daddy's truck turns into the driveway, and he is at the door, not even bothering to knock before coming in. If it had been locked, I think he would have walked through it.

His son is in trouble. And he has come.

He comes to me, wraps his big arms around me, tells me he loves me, that he is here, and I'm not alone any more. Everything will be okay.

We talk, and all the angry, bitter, despairing thoughts that I have been hiding away like a treasure come out in a torrent. And my Daddy listened. And, no matter what I told him, his only response was that he loved me, and he was there for me. No matter what.

After that day, no matter the pain or struggle, I never thought of the drawer again. Not long after, I sold the gun.

I began to get better, and eventually made a full recovery. It took several years to pick through the wreckage of my life, trying to salvage the good, purge the bad, and begin again.

And over that time, my Daddy was there whenever I needed him. And sometimes, especially in those dark days when my marriage was over, it was daily.

And over those days, he saved my life.

Hero.” Sometime after that awful October day, I got my Palm Pilot out, and went to my address book, and found the entry for my Daddy. In the address book, there were places in every entry for business information, like “Company”, “ Title”, “Business Address”, and similar things. In the space where it listed “Title”, I put this in for my Daddy: “Hero.” It remains so today.

Over the span of my 43 years, I can never recall one time I have seen my Daddy that he didn't hug me and tell me he loved me. There was never one phone conversation that did not end with: “I love you, son.” “I love you, too, Daddy.”

I talked to him yesterday. And it was the same.

And the more time passes, the more I am convinced that's why I picked up the phone instead of the pistol that day so long ago.

What manner of man . . .” His name is Quinton. I call him Daddy. He is tall, a little over 6 feet, barrel-chested, a man's man. He is a man who can walk into a room of strangers and be at home; in minutes, he is talking with someone as though they have known each other always. He is expressive, not afraid to display his feelings. And, perhaps most of all, he always let his children know he loved them.

Several weeks ago, the last time I was in Rome, and Cindy and I got to spend that wonderful time together for the first time in a long time, we talked of many things. We talked a lot about our parents. And how, at the most critical junctures of our lives, they were there for us.

I told her this story. And she told me her own story, of how, when she was at the darkest place in her life, Daddy came, hugged her, told her he loved her, and everything would be okay.

And, as we told our stories, with tears, I think we both realized it: he was right.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . and tell someone you love them and everything will be okay . . .



Anonymous said...

this is very nice, gracias por compartirlo

Leila Ward said...

Such an inspiring story Allen...and I did sense that caring in your Dad when I met him...and he did act as though we were old friends, but of course he & Fred did most of the talking, but I was very comfortable around him ! A sweet man ....
My Dad was a lot like yours...not big in stature, but in heart !

Anonymous said...

Inspiring!!! Touching!!! Worth sharing!!!