I was trying to remember the last time we walked on the beach together. I must have been 16 for that one. That was a tough time for you and me. I was in the middle of so much then. I was on one side of the argument and you were on the other. What I know most about that time is we both wanted to be closer. We wanted to get along. And we wanted this so badly too. We wanted to be close but something always had a way of getting between us. Either I said the wrong thing or you did. I could never do things as you wanted me to, and because of this, I made sure to always do the opposite of what you asked me to do. I was very sick then. I was too distant for anyone to reach. I saw myself as a lost and irretrievable cause. So why bother trying to be anything else if all I could do is fail, right?
I have always wondered how two people could love each and want to get along, but yet, still argue as much as we did. I suppose this is what happens when resentment seeps in.
Resentment is a cancer that rots us from within. It is a cover-up of our frustration and hurt. Resentment decays our judgment. It becomes so that we lose sight of important things like how important a moment is between a father and his son. I suppose this is why we struggled so much. We had too many frustrations and too much hurt to express ourselves properly.
But the beach—the beach was our thing. We did this every New Year’s Day. That was our day of truce. And we never missed a year. Not one.
We started our walk from the old concession stand at Point lookout and headed towards Long Beach. We walked along the shore for hours.
The beach seemed so long then. And I was thankful it was long because it meant more time together. It meant our truce could be longer and you and I could coexist without any tension.
Another tradition I had is a tradition you knew nothing about. Whenever we went to the beach, I always made sure to step in a few of your footprints. I did this every year because I always wanted to follow in your footsteps.
As struggled as we may have seemed and as distant as we may have been, I always wanted to be just like you, Pop. From my youngest memory to the last memory I have of you and me together—you were always my hero.
With the exception of one night on April 1, 1990, I have remained exactly as you saw me last. I am still sober. I still make my share of mistakes. I still have my sins to answer for. I cannot say that I have kept out of trouble—at least, not completely.
I can say this; I never went back to what I was or who I was. I can say I have made something of myself. I have these things—and I call them things because it gives them value. I have a family of my own. I have a small group of dependable friends. I have this trick I’ve been working on and I write about it as often as possible. Some say this thing of mine might turn into something one day. But who knows?
I was wondering . . .
Do you remember the last gift you gave me?
It was a golf bag and a new set of gold clubs.
This was you trying to connect with me.
Do you remember when you gave them to me?
It was the morning after a rough night. With the drugs still in my system, I could hardly lift my head off the pillow. You walked in to my room to show me the golf bag. You showed me the different pockets and where I could keep my T’s and golf balls. You showed me all the zippers, the straps, and each of the clubs. Meanwhile, I laid there—watching you show me this gift. I saw the heartbreak. I saw it in your eyes.
In fact, I felt it . . .
That was you trying to connect with me. That was your way of hoping that maybe—just maybe the demons in my system would leave me. You tried but I was too far gone.
It must have been hard for you to see me that way. This is why I always made sure to get to the beach on New Year’s Day. I do this so see you can see me as I am now.
I keep our tradition so you see I will never be that way again. I keep our tradition and I always look for a set of footprints in the sand. I do this and imagine the footsteps belong to you. Then I step in them so I can follow in your footsteps because no matter where you are —you will always be my hero.
This is the first year I have not gone to the beach since we began our tradition. I moved away and the beach is not as close as it used to be. I have a park nearby with trails that lead up to the mountain. I think I will begin my day with a walk there. I may not be able to get to the beach, but I refuse to end our tradition. This is too important to me. This is something that belongs to us and in a way, I feel as if it keeps us both alive.
I have so much now Pop. I have accomplished things that I wish you were here to see and share with. It is peaceful where I am now.
Last night, I pulled into my driveway after a long day at work. I noticed four deer sleeping in the leaves on my side property.
When I pulled in, the deer lifted their head to notice me. I did not bother them. In fact, I liked that they felt comfortable enough to come and stay with me. I feel as if that says something. It’s almost as if they could see the goodness in me. And I want to be good. At least in your eyes.
Anyway, Happy New Year Pop.
Tell Mom she would like it where I live now. In fact, there’s plenty of room if you ever want to come and stay. You don’t have to call or let us know you’re coming. Just show up. And you won’t have to worry if I’ll be able to lift my head off the pillow this time. You might have to figure a way to pry my arms away because I’m sure if I see you both—I doubt I will ever let go.