I sat in the back of a Greyhound Bus with hours of travel ahead of me and nothing else but time to consider my young life. I was trying to reconnect the good times and separate them from the bad.
In the fifth month of my early sobriety, I was heading home to say farewell to The Old Man. By this time, the fog in my head was beginning to lift. I was less angry and more aware. I was learning about life; however, I was not altogether sure that I would choose to remain sober.
My memory improved and so did my speech pattern. I put on weight and my skin was no longer sickly or pale. It was nice to think clearly. It was also nice to be worry-free.
My bouts with paranoia and the other worries that came with addiction were nearly gone. There was no one looking for me, and there were no warrants out for my arrest. I may not have been where I wanted to be, but I was not fenced in or locked in a cage.
The Old Man had just seen me on Thanksgiving and said, “You look good, kid.”
“You should always look this way,” he told me.
While on the bus, I tried to forget the faces of his anger and the rift that came between us. I wanted to let go of the expressions I remembered, like his angry ones, or worse, the quiet ones….those were the hardest to forget.
I sat in a window seat, looking through the tinted glass, and watching the snowy roads blur passed me. It was Christmas Eve. People were with their families, and little kids were excited for Santa Claus.
I was on a bus, heading home from rehab, and about to say goodbye to my father.
Of course, I wondered why this was happening.
I thought it was unfair. At last, there was peace in my house. There were no kids around for my parents to worry about; it was their time to enjoy life, and after years of hard work had begun to pay off, The Old Man was about to pass away.
I closed my eyes and leaned the side of my head against the window…
I remembered the first time we flew a kite together. We were in the grass by the baseball fields on Merrick Avenue. The Old Man picked up the kite by its string and started to run.
I was so little then…
He ran as fast as he could with the kite’s string raised in his hand, and when the wind picked up, the kite took off into the sky.
Then The Old Man let the string out from its spool so the kite would climb higher. And as he handed it to me, I looked up with amazement.
“It’s all yours, kid.”
He showed me how to make the kite dive and swirl around in the sky.
Man…that was beautiful.
After hours of reflection, my trip home ended at The Hempstead Bus Depot. There were piles of snow on the grown and the night was quiet. The sky was clear and the stars were bright and crisp.
I walked into the nearby cab-stand and told the dispatcher, “I need to go to Hempstead General.”
The tiny store front was dimly lit. The white tiled floor was dirtied with footprints of previous passengers and cabbies. There were strings of colored Christmas lights hung at the ceiling, and there were empty chairs against the wall.
There was a small television with poor reception and bent antennas pointing upwards from the back of the set. As I recall the television was showing a black and white version of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
That was 23 years ago today.
The Old Man passed on December 29, 1989
I consider the days between now and the 29th to be my personal days of awe.
There is a prayer in which it says, “Thy will not my will, be done.”
God’s will is not always fair or easily understood. But understand something; everything in life happens for a reason. Everything is choreographed.
My successes, failures, and even my tragedies are what helped me to become who I am today.
My losses are my lessons and my mistakes are my gains. And had it not been for the passing of my Old Man, I would have never learned what it means to live.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have the light of life.” John 3:16
This is the love of the Father. And mine so loved his son that he accepted his task in life so I could learn the benefit of my own.
Safe to say; this was the last Christmas gift The Old Man gave me.