Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dad Calls

There isn't much I can do about it, that's true. Dad refuses to call his son, and I think I understand it now.

"Hey Son!" He always calls me son now. I saw an old skit on television, Joe Piscabo played an old man. You know he's getting old, the narrarator said, when he starts calling you son. I reserve judgement for the day when I do the same. Hell, I think I'm already guilty.

"Hey Dad."

"So what's the latest?"

Might as well get to the point. I couldn't have small-talked anyway with gravity heaving at my chest. "It finally happened Dad, like I said it would. John failed a drug test, and he is turning himself in tonight, possibly tomorrow."

"Aw hell!"

"So I'm just going to say this once Dad. Although there is a chance, and I don't want to be overly optimistic here, that John may get lucky and get rehab, this may be the last chance that you have to speak with your son for eight years at worst."

"Things here haven't been going so well either. Mike has been drinking Scope and rubbing alcohol, anything he can get his hands on. He's killing himself."

Mike is my step-brother by my dad's most recent marriage, one that has outlasted anybodies most optimistic estimate, and one that may just make it like it should. My step-mother has three sons, and each is a bookend on the unholy trinity, disgusting, disrespectful and woeful at best. I've come close to blows with all of them, and haven't seen or heard from any of them for nearly fifteen years. Except for Mike, who never liked me much. But in the month approaching my wedding, Mike answered the phone when I called for dad. I felt awkward because I didn't invite him or his brothers. My step-mother didn't come for maybe just that reason.

"Congratulations," he told me on the phone, "You deserve to be happy."

"Thanks Mike," I said with an offhanded tone, as if to say ok, now put dad on the phone.

"No, you're not hearing me," he said, "I mean it, you really deserve it."

I paused, and despite myself, I choked up just a little. "I hear you now Mike. Thank you." And he was gone.

In recent times he hit bottom, fathered a few children and ran from it all, drank himself into submission. I saw him at dads some months ago before Christmas, a broken tattered man, five o'clock shadow and bloated white face, long flannel sleeves pulled up over the elbows, greasy long black hair and near handle barred mustache. The life was gone from his eyes such that one had to look away for fear of falling in.

"I'm having him committed," my dad told me, "and it is going to rip his heart out."

"What can you do dad? Someday he'll thank you, but it will take time."

His words were terse, controlled. Was he starting to cry? "Listen, I'm going to hang up now and call my son."

"Ok dad, I'll call you tomorrow." I paused. "I love you dad."


Twenty minutes later the phone rang again.

"Well, I talked to him."

"You did?! Wow, that's great dad."

He words were spaced apart, as if he were in pain and every syllable might be his last. "I... couldn't... help... it..."

"Yeah," I said, softly, trying to encourage.

"I told him that when he was a boy..."

I waited.

"He was always so put together, so proper. His pants had an even crease and his shirts were ironed and perfect. Never a hair out of place. Don't go to court looking like a bum. Be the John that I know."

I was stunned. "Do you have any idea what that meant to him dad? You may not feel like you are worth it, but I guarantee that you gave him something to hold onto there. That blows away anything I had to say!"

John promised to call dad later that night. I hope he did.


magnetbabe said...

Your dad did a good thing. He gave your brother hope. And I suspect the things in the spaces between his words helped just as much.

Toni Anderson said...

Hope is a wonderful thing.

Kathleen said...

Good for you helping John and your Dad like that. They both needed that phone call. I hope things work for John...and I hope rehab helps Mike. I can't imagine being so desperate for a high that I would drink mouthwash or rubbing alcohol. So so sad.

Bailey Stewart said...

Good for your dad - I think the phone call helped him as much as John. And I hope rehab helps Mike.

Keep in there Scott - I know this is hard and I hope that blogging about it has helped as some sort of catharsis. I'm thinking about you.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

And I thought I had family trouble.

Ever feel like you're bearing the weight of a whole nation?

I suspect that you do.

jenbeauty said...

{{HUGS}} I just don't know how to put it all in words. Just know that I am here and thinking of you, your Dad and your brother.

mr. schprock said...

I think your dad's all right in my book. I really hope things work out for your brother.

Moni said...


Ancient Art said...

Hope so too. Praying for your family's strength. Hope things will work out.

Jada's Gigi said...

...almost any dad is better than none...
i'm glad he called...for all of you.

Claire said...

I didn't respond to the post before this one becasue I didn't know what *I* had to say that could allieviate any of your pain or disappointment or do any good whatsoever in the situation.

I'm responding to this one because I simpley can't NOT respond.

I'm so glad your dad called him. I'm glad he said the right things. I'm glad that you have your head on your shoulders and were willing to make that tough phone call to put the ball in motion.

I have to ask though - how are your kids handling all this, or have you told them yet? My family was kinda screwed up when I was a kid, and some of it my parents told me, some I was left in the dark on. I'm not sure which swould've been best, but I think there are parts of it that shaped who I am even though I didn't have to live with it every day.

Scott said...

My kids aren't old enough to understand any of this, the oldest being six. Besides, they hardly know my brother because we live half a country apart. My brother has never visited me once. I've gone there a few times, and used to a lot before my kids were born, but now we barely see each other.