Jason Pockrandt tells the story of how he lost his father at 17.
We all make choices in our lives both big and small that lead us to places where at times we must fall. The one way to get up is to get back on our feet and understand the life lesson that was right under our seat. I understand all of you are here today because of life choices that you made with information you had at the time. We can only know that which we know. It may have been a day that altered your life direction forever. Good or bad is how you frame the outcome and the lessons learned from your experience. I am here to provide you with an opportunity to choose today to create another day that will shift your direction. Allow me to share with you a short story about three days and four choices that transformed my entire perspective on who I was and the life I was living.
First off, I have to help you understand that I watched my mother and father struggle in life in a lot of areas. My mother would work night after night and do everything she could to work hard and support the family. My dad also struggled while working hard and more often than I liked to see with addiction. The balance to keep the family together and stop everyone from fighting was one of the hardest things I feel my mother ever had to go through. Until it got to the point where mom just couldn’t take it anymore. The straw had finally broken the camels back. After years of being in love since they were high school sweethearts, mom was exhausted. She couldn’t handle the fighting and the day that he came after me was the day mom said NO! It’s time for us to go. She packed our bags and that was that.
Day one. We left on a Wednesday. The papers were signed and the day would soon be here. I was going to lose my family. Mom and Dad were getting a divorce and we were on our way to Grandma’s. I was 17. I packed up my car and I was the last one to leave that day. I will always remember watching dad stand on the porch with tears in his eyes looking at his oldest son and he only had one question.
“Promise you will come see me Jason?” Dad asked.
Before I drove away, I made a choice, I looked at my father with a smile on my face as I held back the tears not to let him see his boy crying. I said to him, “Of course dad. I promise I’ll come back and see you.” After that all was left were the taillights in his vision and the man who raised me for 17 years left behind, alone on the porch, crying as he waved goodbye. Little did I know those would be the last words I ever spoke to my father. I couldn’t imagine he would be gone so quickly.
Day two. It’s Thursday and I wanted to make sure that Dad knew more than anything his little boy kept his word. He was my Fox Bear. He was the rock. He was the only man I could look up to. I went back to the house to see Dad. I rolled up and put the car in park. I approached the steps slowly with a strange sense of unfamiliarity. This wasn’t home anymore. Mom wasn’t here. I was going to “visit” dad. This was a feeling I didn’t like much. I made my way into the house slowly. There he was sitting in his favorite blue lazy boy recliner where he loved to relax. He wasn’t awake. Asleep again I thought. He was always sleeping. I checked the fridge to see what I could drink. When I went back I could see it on his face.
I was pissed. upset, disappointed. He wasn’t sleeping. He was passed out once more from the drugs. How could he do this to us? To himself? I didn’t care to ask. I didn’t want to deal with that pain at the time. I couldn’t face him again and try to understand his slurred words. I couldn’t attempt to make sense of what Dad was saying through the man who was controlling him. That wasn’t the dad I knew and loved.
How will he know I was here? Should I leave a note, wake him up? No. Forget about it Jason. Just leave. Come back tomorrow. He’ll be fine.
As quickly as I walked in that Thursday I walked back out. I couldn’t face that pain again. Not in that moment. In that moment I made a choice. I left.
Day three. Friday was here. April 9th 2004. It was Good Friday. I wasn’t worried about church though. I was 17 and thinking about what I wanted to do for the weekend. Friends, parties, fun? I had been talking with a girl on the Internet I had never met, never seen. But I was 17 and I knew what was on my mind as a young, naive high school guy. I packed up my backpack and was ready for the day. She would be driving up from Livonia to meet me. Was I excited? You bet. It was going to be awesome. I was going to meet what I thought was a super hot girl.
Then the questions began.
“What’s in the backpack Jason?” my brother asked.
None of your business,” I snapped.
“Come on, what is it?” Mom chimed in.
“Leave me alone!” I yelled.
Matthew grabbed for the pack. I ripped it away and I ran outside. I was waiting. She was on her way. Forget about my family—they just made me mad. I’ve got nothing to say to them right now. Little did I know then how the choices I was making that would mold my entire future. I stood in front of Grandma’s house waiting for my ride. She soon arrived as I was still yelling at Mom. In that moment, I made a choice. I got in the car and I left.
What happened while I was gone doesn’t matter. What matters is the ending. While I was out making selfish choices, my mother and Matthew had also made a choice. They were going to the mall and had wanted me to come. But I had better things to do on a Friday night I thought. I didn’t care to be with my family.
Matthew was only 12. He had his entire life ahead of him. I was 17, and I was setting the stage for him to follow down the wrong path. I finished my time with a stranger from the Internet and headed back to Grandma’s house. It was just her and me. Everyone else was still gone.
I turned on the tv and let my mind wander. What had I done? I was disgusted with myself and disappointed with how I had treated my mother. Then the phone rang. Grandma picked it up in the den and quickly returned to the living room. She looked me in the eye with a frown on her face. For a moment there was silence.
“What is it, Grandma?”
“Jason, your dad passed away.”
“What! No! How? Where is Mom?”
Good Friday came that year, but no good came of it. I lost my father. That day my world was forever shaken. I had no clue as to the magnitude of my choices or the actions I took. It would take me eight years to understand. To move past the blame, the shame, and the guilt I would feel. But on that day It happened. It was real. He was gone.
We drove back to the house I had just left yesterday. The one where Dad had been sleeping.
How did this happen? You might wonder.
Matthew and my mom had made a choice, too.
Mom thought it best to stop by and check on Dad to see how he was feeling since we had left two days ago. She was close enough to the house after they left the mall, so why not stop by? Mom parked the car, and Matthew was eager to enter. As the story goes, the young son entered the home that was just days ago the only place he knew. “Where was Dad?” Mom asked. Matthew walked into the kitchen and had his world turned upside down. There was our father laying on the floor with a phone in hand and no strength to make the call. The one who loved him was gone. A scene no child should ever endure.
And then the questions began? Who he was calling? We will never know. How did this happen? Why now? How? Most importantly why not me?
“It should have been me!” I yelled and screamed. I paced in front of the headlights as the ambulance roared in the street. Pictures, police, what are they doing in that house? Let me inside. Let me see my father. “We can’t let you in,” the officer told me. “Remember me Jason, I was at your house that night”. “Screw you Officer,” I shouted. “Let me in. But he wouldn’t budge. It was too late. My brother and my mother had the misfortune of living this experience. And I couldn’t take it back. I couldn’t change the past. I could only learn the lesson because I had made the choice.
Orginally published on jasonpockrandt.com.