Suddenly, a stream of bad luck seemed to strike my dads life. His dad fell ill, and he had to watch his own father die slowly before his very eyes. In the midst of dealing with this, he began to experience extreme complications due to his childhood polio. The doctors put him on painkillers, and asked him to take a leave of absence from work so they could run more tests and studies on his disease. While tending to his pain, both emotionally and physically, things only continued to get worse. Carol had disappeared on a three-day binge, and during this binge, stole his car and wrecked it. This resulted in having to bail her out of jail yet once again. All this happened not long after he had just paid her way through rehab.
One night, my dad called me in tears. He had reached his breaking point. Sobbing like a child, he began to pour out his heart in a way I had never heard him do before. For two hours, I listened to what sounded like a little boy crying his heart out, needing so desperately for someone to love him. He wept and apologized over and over again for all his mistakes as a dad, and shared his brokenness about feeling like nobody would ever love him the way he desired to be loved. He shared how he felt so alone, and how he had always just wanted to be loved.
That night, I began to understand not only my dad, but myself as well. We had been giving the love to others that we so desperately needed for ourselves. More than I wanted that love for me, I realized I needed it for him.
About a year after this phone call, I received another call that would forever change my life. This time it was my mom telling me that my dad’s body had been found on the side of the road. He had fallen and died of his first and only heart attack. I was devastated and numb. I screamed and sobbed for hours upon hours. My heart hurt more than it ever had. Once again my daddy had left me, and this time he wasn’t coming back. I had lost the only man who had ever truly loved me.
In the days that followed my dad’s death, I began to find out more about how sad his life had really been. With each detail, my heart would crumble into more pieces than I thought possible. Though he promised his marriage to Carol was over, the truth was, he had never even filed for divorce.
When he collapsed, he had just left his latest "replacement" girlfriends house after finding out that she too was cheating on him. His home was in shambles, and there were boxes and boxes of unopened mail and bills. His debts were enormous, and creditors were after him. The worst part was that he had never written a will or changed his beneficiary, and since he was still legally married to Carol, every possession and every dollar of life insurance and retirement was left to his estranged drug addicted wife. The responsibility to pay for his funeral and his debt though, conveniently fell into mine and my sisters laps instead. Besides his bills and debt, my sisters and I were left with only memories of our dad.
For once in my life, I allowed myself to be really angry with him. How could he have left us with such a mess? And why had he lied to me, someone who loved and accepted him no matter what? I felt so betrayed.
My hurt and anger held firm until the day of my dad’s funeral. But, as I walked into the chapel, my heart softened at what I saw. The room was absolutely filled. Every seat was taken, and there were people taken to standing in the back. As I looked around, I noticed that a wide variety of people had come to pay respects. The homeless, the mentally challenged, the physically disabled, fellow workers young and old, ex-wives, ex-"projects," and old family friends had found a way (or should I say a bus?) to come and say goodbye. I realized, as I observed the crowd, how truly soft hearted my dad had been. He had invited into his life every person who needed love and had instead been rejected by society. He never judged, never critiqued. He only loved and accepted people just as they were. It was amazing to see how his love had touched so many people.