First year without dad: When it’s down to just you, you better like you. Thank God I do.

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Dad died a year ago today. For sure it has been the fastest year of my life.

But as I sat at the cemetery bawling yesterday, only then did it really hit me – it’s just me now.

And I mean that in every sense of the word. My dad was my entire life for so long – since the day I moved back to the Quad-Cities in 2002. I made several trips a day to his apartment for many years before moving in with him. And of course I also made several trips per day to the assorted substandard facilities he lived in in his final years, except for 108 days when one of them locked me out.

The void in my life is even bigger than I could have guessed. When you surround yourself with alcoholics and addicts, nobody cares when hard times come. They don’t. They really don’t. If you’re an alcoholic or an addict, you’ll find that out eventually. If you’re an alcoholic or an addict, you know what really matters is the bump, the shot, the tall boy.

“Yeah, yeah, so-and-so’s dad’s died. Hey, let’s get some ding-ding!”

I used to say it myself.

The bar people were gone pretty much from the day I moved in with dad. When he went into a facility, that’s all she wrote.

Thank God they left. It made sobriety easier. I remember once, my friend Scott’s grandma died. She was 100 years old, maybe older. He loved her so much.

We went out that night, to the bar. None of his “friends” showed him any compassion at all. It was as if they were incapable. I’ll never forget the look on his face, or the feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Monsters,” I thought. But I still hung around them for free drugs and alcohol. I was an alcoholic and a drug addict.

And of course, when you’re nearly murdered, that tends to make you pretty much not trust anyone anymore. And that turns people away in droves. And I thought about that, too, as I sat at the cemetery, crying to dad as I had so many times before.

When it’s your family who tries to hurt you? That’s the worst hurt there is, I think.

I told dad at least I had raised hell about the substandard elder care in our community, and at least I educated a whole lot of people about his disease. And hey, I got to report undercover from the Rock Island County Jail, held there on no charges at all!

That truly was a blessing, and I’m being completely serious. I remember, when I heard someone cock a gun, and start shooting blanks “click, click, click” … I remember praising God for helping me become sober, for going back to work and helping people with my writing, and for showing my dad that I could be the man he always knew I was.

Most of all, I thanked God for giving me my self-respect back.

And I prepared for the bullet to the head I was certain I was going to take.

“They were f***ing with you,” one healthcare provider told me. “That’s what they do in the Rock Island County Jail. They’re known for it.”

Well, yeah.

But the reason I really thought they were going to kill me was this: I heard one guard, I’ll call him “J.,” say in his classic foghorn voice, “(Blankety Blank) tried to kill him last year, but he woke up on his couch.”

Who did he say that to? A high-ranking politician who was hanging out in the jail. I did not hear her utter a response. But I’ll tell you this: The silence alone was chilling.

I knew the politician and Blankety Blank were an acquaintance, because Blankety Blank boasted to me once or twice that he knew her. But this?

And “J.” feeling chummy enough with her to tell her what “Blankety Blank” allegedly had done? (Through the hands of my cousin and his friends, obviously, if in fact Blankety Blank really did have anything to do with it at all, or if that was just more s@#t talk for me to hear and get upset about)

It was one year prior to that day, at least to the same week, that my cousin and his friends assaulted me, pinned me down, and injected me with a needle. When I woke up, there was a nebulizer in my pocket. Classic (attempted) homicide disguised like an overdose. At least that’s exactly what it looks like to me.

And so very curious that other people who traveled in the same circles I did have indeed died in similar, mysterious ways. “Overdose.” “Suicide.” “Unknown.” “Under investigation.”

I showed my AA sponsor the marks on my arms. He said, “You had the shit beat out of you. Have you had enough?”

Apparently I had because it was the last time I ever took a drink.

And that person “J.” mentioned? Well, he has since been in the news himself for something rather shocking. So now it’s just doubly-triply chilling.

Did I imagine these things? Did I just “hear wrong?” because I was in distress in the jail?

I did dance around naked after all in an attempt to amuse myself. But I remember that. No, that wasn’t “a trip,” that was me using humor to keep going and “stay positive.”

If they find any jail footage at all I’m sure it will be that. The rest will be “missing.”

I suppose I could have imagined the things I heard, but I absolutely don’t believe  for one second that I did. Much of what I heard has since been independently verified. Believe me, I have a big ol’ file.

And it being “all in my head” doesn’t add up by the sheer fact of what history has taught us since, and the fact that I’ve known these people for years and years and knew their voices like the back of my hand. There’s too much detail, too much evidence, too much motive. I think the ones who try to paint me as bonkers are beginning to look guilty themselves, quite frankly.

Somebody knows what happened in there. At least a few people. It only takes one to snitch. I’m counting on that one.

The moral of my story today? I truly believed they were going to kill me in that jail, and the motive (my big mouth) was quite clear and had been for some time. Yet as I prepared and fully expected one of them to walk in and shoot me in the head, I thanked God for having my self-respect back.

That, my friends, is priceless. And for now, worth every lonely moment.

5 thoughts on “First year without dad: When it’s down to just you, you better like you. Thank God I do.

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