She watched his slide into paranoia, sat with him all night to prevent his suicide, but she could not put him back together again.
When I think about the darkest times of my life, I am reminded of a nursery rhyme book I had as a child, specifically the story of Humpty Dumpty. My Daddy became the embodiment of this beloved egg from my book after my mother, his one true love, passed from here to Heaven. With her death, he brought the character of Humpty Dumpty to life.
Dad has a shell, a hard exterior on the outside, but he’s soft inside, just like Humpty Dumpty. Dad’s shell keeps his feelings locked inside with no way of escape. Eventually, though, there is a breaking point. The egg becomes so full, that there is no room left. The shell begins to break. Dad’s shell started to crack the day we laid my mother in the ground, allowing emotion to trickle out the small fissures.
Slowly, but surely, Daddy began to share his feelings with me. He would talk and talk for hours. Before Mom died, we didn’t talk about life. After she died, we talked about life, death, and everything in between. Dad would try hard not to cry. His nose would run, tears filling his eyes to the brim, and he would scrunch his face up to keep them from falling. He had to be strong, or he thought he did, for me.
Mom wasn’t the first or the last of close loved ones my Dad would be forced to say goodbye to. A few years after she passed, Dad lost an older brother to cancer. His father passed away before I was born and his mother while I was in kindergarten. His oldest brother with whom he shared a birthday had committed suicide when he was still young himself. I never realized how much pain my Dad had been subjected to in his lifetime. I never took the time to see his grieving heart.
With each loved one my daddy lost, the cracks in his shell began to widen. My daddy pretended he was OK and locked away his emotions from everyone around him, including me. He was trying to live instead of merely existing. He did what he had always done and I couldn’t tell anything was wrong. I was preoccupied with my own life and sadly, I never saw any sign of trouble until it was too late. Had I seen the signs, however, I don’t believe it would have made a difference. By this time, Dad had one foot off the wall.
Fall 2009 came and with it, trouble. It was then my daddy’s closest brother was diagnosed with colon cancer. Dad remained as quiet as he always had about his worries and fears. I had no idea that my daddy was falling further and further away from me, and from life.
He became tired; more of a loner. Then, the paranoia started. Drugs are a huge problem in our area and everyone knows it. My family has always just avoided it. We know it’s there, even in our neighborhood, but we never get involved. Dad, for some reason, became convinced he had said something to make a drug dealer mad. At first, I went along with him. My dad had always been a rational and reasonable man, so if he thought there was reason to worry, then there probably was. I soon saw, however, that this was not the case.
I watched as his worries become an unfounded obsession. Daddy started coming to see me just to talk again, the same way he did right after Mom died. It was odd to say the least. He kept saying that he had done the wrong thing and that we were all in danger. He warned me to pay attention if someone was following me and not to stop my car for any reason. He would ask almost every night if someone had followed or tried to bother me. He was extremely interested in who I had seen that day and who I had talked to, warning me not to mention him to anyone. He was honestly scared to death.
He would keep all the lights off, even during the day. At night, he would keep a flashlight in his room to light the way to the bathroom to keep from turning on a light. He would duck down when passing by his window so people wouldn’t see him. He became fanatical. Dad kept talking about how tired he was and I noticed how little he was eating. Most days, he would lie in bed all day, barely leaving his bedroom. He was still talking nonsense. He would talk for hours about how bad he had messed up and how he had put us all in danger. I kept trying to tell him he was wrong, but he just wouldn’t listen to me. He was convinced we had people after us and that they wouldn’t stop until we were dead.
On a normal Wednesday, Daddy fell off the wall and broke. I had called to check on him that morning and he just kept on with the nonsense. I became extremely frustrated. I tried to tell him to snap out of it and started crying. My manager walked in and asked if I was okay. I just laughed it off and told him my daddy was crazy. I still had not realized he was honestly mentally ill. Rather, I hadn’t admitted it.
I went to the cake shop on my lunch break. I was baking a birthday cake for a co-worker and had to pick up a few things to finish it. I talked to Dad while I walked down the street to the shop. He was still talking about the drug dealers and whatnot. I told him he had to stop handling this stupid talk. I yelled a lot in our phone conversation, said a lot of things that I wished I hadn’t. I was so angry with him. I just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t get past whatever it was that was bothering him. I was trying to snap him back into reality, and was failing miserably. I was too blind to see that there was nothing I could do to help him. Even if Dad had wanted to snap out, he couldn’t have. He was mentally unstable and I was in denial of his sickness. I was angry, hurt, and had no idea how to handle the situation.
After lunch, I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang. On the caller ID was my home number. I answered, startled. It was my husband, Ryan. He simply told me I had to come home. I asked him why and if something was wrong. I remember the fear in his voice when he answered, “Your daddy has a gun to his head.” The bottom of my world fell from beneath me with those words. I felt like I was having a panic attack and could hardly breathe. I found my manager and briefly explained what was happening. He told me to go and that was exactly what I did. I headed toward my car, praying with everything in me. I made it home and my daddy was okay, as okay as he could be in the shape he was mentally.
My husband and I talked with him and he seemed to come back to his senses. That only lasted for a night as the paranoia once again took hold. It would be three more days before my daddy received the help he so desperately needed, albeit against his will. Those three days were the longest of my life. I stayed with Dad as much as I could. My husband feared for my own safety and I feared for my daddy’s. It was a nightmare.
Finally, in the wee hours of the morning on Labor Day Monday, I convinced my daddy to go to the Emergency Room. I had already wrestled a gun away from him and told him it would be best if we went on to the doctor. I truly believe had I not been with him that night, I would have found his body in the morning. He had the gun out the entire night and even accused my husband of making a deal with the drug dealers in his mind. It was one of the most frightening times of my life.
My daddy spent nearly a week in mental facility and was released on medication. It was a fight for almost a year to get him to take his medicine. Some days it took all the strength I could muster to get him to swallow his pills. Other days, it was all I could do just to get him to eat. Tears filled my days and my nights as my daddy started on the road to recovery with me beside him.
It has been nearly six years since that faithful day a phone call changed my life forever. A lot has taken place, inside my own heart as well as with Dad. I can’t count the tears my eyes have seen. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve went through, aside from losing Mom. I watched my mommy die when she wanted to live. Some days, I watch my daddy live but want to die.
I’ll never forget the day my daddy almost took his life. Deep down I know I’m a better daughter and a better person because I can’t forget. I love my daddy with everything in me and know to cherish every good morning, every goodnight, every forehead kiss and hug he gives me. Every day I get with him is another miracle.
I now know the dark places depression can take you to. I have seen my Daddy’s hollow eyes look helplessly at me and I have looked back just as helpless. I have accepted the fact I can’t fix my Dad. I can’t take my mother’s place and I can’t bring her back. And I can’t put my Daddy back together.
But I know one who can, one who did.
While it may be true all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again, the King of all kings is putting my Daddy back piece by piece. My prayers continue to go up and continue to be answered. He is still fighting a hard battle. In fact, he is just now starting to resemble his old self. He has started listening to music again and tinkering with cars like he did before he got sick. He’s starting to find himself again.
I hear him laugh, really laugh, when my son does something silly. I watch him as he takes my little boy by the hand and walks him to his truck to play. He comes through the door every evening with a Hershey bar for him and when my sons smiles, I see the smile I thought was gone forever spread across my Dad’s face to smile back. I smile, too.
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