It had been a few years since I had heard from Daddy. Every now and then I’d receive phone calls where I’d answer but there would be silence on the other end. I always suspected it was him. Just my gut telling me and the fact that when I would say, “Daddy?” the person would immediately hang up. In the Spring of 1999 Daddy not only called but he actually spoke instead of hanging up. He told me he needed to speak to me and my partner but because of the seriousness of it, he couldn’t do it on the phone. He told me it was crucial he speak to me in person. OK, what now? I figured it was him in his paranoid state wanting to go over this or that instruction for when he dies. So, as usual I played his game and my partner and I went to his house.
Oh about his house. He wasn’t living in an apartment anymore but living in the house of one of his girlfriends. The girlfriend finished medical school and moved to another city. Her intentions were to sell the house to Daddy as he promised to buy it. However, their relationship eventually became so strained she ended up giving him the house to get rid of him. I’m sure it was a well devised plan by Daddy to get what he wanted-a free house!
My partner and I went to Daddy’s house a couple of hours after he called. After all according to Daddy it was imperative he speak to us immediately and waiting until the following day just wouldn’t do. I had been to his house, well I mean to his girlfriend’s house in the past. It was a cute brick house with a nice garden in the front. When we arrived that day though, the house looked much different. The garden was gone and it was replaced by cacti. All of the windows had iron gates on them including the front door and garage door. Here was the thing. If Daddy’s neighborhood was not safe, one would not question the iron gates. But, that was not the case. His neighborhood was safe. So, what the hell was the deal?
We knocked on his front door. We could hear Daddy unlocking several locks before opening the door. He invited us inside, asked us to sit down in his den and wasted no time to talk to us. OK, for those of you who don’t remember 1999 that year brought about lots of doomsayers. In essence they thought computers had no way to transfer to the year 2000 resulting in the inability to access our money in the bank and other important tasks controlled by computers. And without the ability to do those tasks, our way of living as we knew it would drastically change for the worse. There were companies selling self sufficient heating and cooking units for homes in case there was no more electricity. Guns and ammunition sales increased as people thought they’d have to protect their homes from looters. There were many companies who cashed in on the fear of what was called, “the Y2k scare.” And of course who’s father was also sucked into the fear? Yep, my Dad. And yep, that was what he wanted to talk to us about that day. He wanted to prepare us for the horrors that were to come and to advise us on how to protect ourselves. Meanwhile, why couldn’t he have told us everything over the phone? Well, just in case his phone was tapped, he didn’t want anyone to know how much information he had about Y2k and all that was going to happen. He acted as if a special CIA person had dropped by his house to give him the news and then made him swear to keep it top secret. Listen, Daddy would have been more accurately described as being the wacky Get Smart character. A James Bond, he was not!
But anyway, as we sat there that day Daddy said in a very serious tone the dangers of what was to come in the year 2000. Daddy believed there would be massive food shortages and because of that people would have to eat their pets to survive. He thought civil wars would break out between Counties and eventually between neighborhoods leaving folks prisoners in their homes. He told us he had proof it was going to happen because he had a very reputable source. However, he wasn’t able to tell us that source because it was top secret.
I got to thinking. I had a friend of mine who was a doctor. He had a patient who claimed to know the winning numbers to the lottery because he said he was psychic and he claimed to have had a bionic penis. Would you believe my friend bought a lottery ticket with the numbers that guy suggested? Well, you think that same guy might have been the one feeding my Dad the crap about Y2k? Hey, if he could convince a doctor to buy a lottery ticket even when he openly claimed to have a bionic penis, it was conceivable he fed a load of crap to Daddy too.
Daddy did claim to have a video that would prove what he told us was going to happen but we told him we didn’t want to see it. He offered for us to take it but we’d have to promise to not show it to anyone else and to return it. My partner told him it was not necessary for us to watch the video. The final clincher which made my partner doubt Daddy’s very sanity was when he told us our only hope of survival would be to move to Israel. To that my partner said loudly, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me!” She found Daddy’s philosophy on Y2k ridiculous and way over the top. Because I was so used to Daddy’s mentality, I couldn’t see the absurdity of it at the time. And it was very hard for me to watch my partner laugh at Daddy. Once again no matter how crazy something was of his, I wanted to protect him and to show he wasn’t that crazy. It was hard to accept.
When I told Daddy we didn’t have the money to move over seas, he replied, “That’s why I’m telling you guys this now. It will give you the time to raise the money and get out.” Here was the thing. I NEVER wanted to believe that Daddy was crazy. He was my Dad. Come on, Dads were so supposed to be the person a child could go to for advice and support. What the hell? Not me though! I get the dad who thinks his phones are being tapped by none other than the greatest secret service agency in the world, the Mossad. And I have the dad who believes all of the Y2k hype and spends a fortune to “protect” himself from any of the disasters to come as a result. How was it that I got the paranoid dad? Why did my dad live his entire life with an obsessive compulsiveness of death and destruction which kept him totally stifled from living? I will never know why. And as often as I do ask why and as often as I have been jealous of others who had a loving and caring father, I have to believe it was Bashert for me to be dealt this hand in life. It was just in my cards for whatever reason, good or bad. I may not have liked it and I may have suffered along the way but it was what I was given. And even though I had no control over the cards I was dealt, I did have the control once I got older to fold on the chaotic and painful game of life my Dad had created. Was I strong enough? Would I be able to do it knowing that meant leaving Daddy behind? Fortunately, I had a partner who was giving me that strength and showing me the healthier and happier ways through life. She grounded me during those times I felt guilty and wanted to run back to Daddy. And eventually after our son was born, she helped me to see the importance of protecting him from the evil that had taken so much away from me. I never wanted my son to know the pain, the abuse and the games of Daddy and the only way to keep him safe was to remove Daddy from my life. Even though I knew my son’s safety came first, it would be one of the hardest decisions I was to make in my life. A day never went by where I didn’t feel guilty or sad by the absence of my father.
As we left Daddy’s house the day he told us about the dangers of Y2k I was speechless. I wanted to believe him. I was sad. I was angry. I was feeling so many different emotions, my head was spinning. I suppose as more time passed with me not being in contact with him, the more clear it was becoming of how off kilter his mental state was. Over the next months we found out Daddy had stock piled food and prepared his house like a fort. He spent a fortune preparing for something that never ended up happening. And honestly, that truly was the essence of Daddy. Because he spent half of his time looking back at what he thought was taken away from him and the other half of his time looking forward, he truly missed out an entirely huge section of his life. He couldn’t live in the present and therefor couldn’t see the many wonderful gifts he did have.
In 2003 when our beautiful son was born I had not spoken to Daddy since the Y2k incident. He didn’t even know we were having a baby which I chose to not tell him. When I was pregnant my partner and I were at a local store when I heard a nasty and angry voice coming from behind me. With out even looking I asked my partner if that was my father. When she confirmed it was, I wanted to cry. He had not changed as I was always hoping he would. To no surprise Daddy was yelling at his girlfriend and an employee of the store over a package of toilet paper. He was mean, rude and so hateful. Because of that very behavior I promised my partner our son would be protected and be kept safe from the abuses of my father. Unfortunately, because Daddy was so volatile the only option I had was to live my life without him. It wasn’t easy. Here’s the thing. It was an easy decision but it wasn’t easy to do without the feelings of guilt and sadness.
In 2005 after several years had gone by without any contact with Daddy something unexpected happened that I am forever grateful. My partner, our son and I were making our usual weekly grocery store run. Since I walk faster I walked into the store first. When I did I immediately saw my Dad at the checkout line. I stopped frozen for a second. Daddy looked so old and was in a motorized buggy. He was joking with the checkout clerk. As I ran out of the store my partner and son were just headed into the area where the buggies were. My partner asked me What was wrong? I was out of sorts, nervous and afraid. I wanted Daddy to meet his grandson but I was stifled by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I asked my partner to please introduce our son to him for me. I told her I couldn’t do it because I didn’t think I could be strong enough and separate myself from the emotional side of it. Just as my partner took our son to meet my dad, I felt a sudden wave of strength come over me. I heard my mom’s voice telling me it was important Daddy see me too. Just as my partner introduced our son to my Dad, I walked up to them. Daddy didn’t know who I was. I had to introduce myself. Listen, I didn’t expect Daddy to go all goo goo and ga ga over his grandson. After all he already had two granddaughters he chose to ignore. But, for me at least he knew about them and saw them. I needed him to see my child.
After a few minutes our son was wrestles so my partner took him to get our groceries. She asked if I’d be alright and I told her I would be fine. Daddy and I spoke for about 20 minutes. He had many questions for me. He asked about my sister. I was able to tell him she had breast cancer and how we were in touch. When he challenged me as to why I would be in contact with her, I asked him, ” What was the one thing you’d always tell me and my sister when we’d argue?” Daddy answered, “That you only have each other, so you should always love each other and be there for each other.” I was able to tell him that just because my sister and I are different in many ways that was OK. We could still love each other and talk to each other. I’ll never forget how Daddy raised his eyebrows and sat back in his chair in response. He asked about our son’s name and why I had not named him after Momma. I was able to explain the meaning of his name which totally symbolized Momma. Daddy tried to take time from our conversation to tell me about his heart attack he had 6 months prior and how his health wasn’t good. However after years and years of hearing about his ill health I changed the subject to ask him about some genealogy stuff on Momma’s side. Just as I did my partner walked up. She was done with her groceries. I wanted to talk to Daddy longer. For the first time ever he seemed medicated to keep his erratic behavior in check. I didn’t think that simply because of his unusual calm demeanor but also because of the way he transitioned from one topic to another even when he didn’t agree. He stayed calm which was highly unusual.
My partner knew the longer I stayed to talk to Daddy the harder it would be for me to leave. She told me we needed to get our son home to eat. And so we said our goodbye’s and walked to our car. No hugs, no kisses. Just the words, Goodbye.”
As we walked out of the grocery store and into the parking lot, my partner put her arm around me and said, “I think that will be the last time you’ll ever see your father.” Already crying, I looked at her and softly said, “I know.” Daddy sat in his car watching us until we drove away. His expressionless face as he watched us will be etched in my memory for a long time to come, but hopefully not forever.