I quickly peeled away the gold foil from the top and pointed the olive green glass bottle away from me, away from everyone else.
“Please don’t knock me out” stated Marley.
All the girls giggled.
Realizing I had never done this before, I felt a little nervous. Hell, who was I kidding; I could barely open a bottle of wine; the struggle was real.
As I slowly pushed the cork upwards with my right thumb, both the pressure and the anticipation slowly started to build.
The cork popped, resonating throughout the restaurant. Champagne flew everywhere and all eyes were on us.
We raised our glasses in unison, “happy Birthday Jaimie!” The girls exclaimed.
“This is your year baby girl, I know it,” stated my best friend Preslee.
She was right.
I had just turned 23 years old. I had finally started my senior year of college, and for what seemed like the first time in a long time, I was happy.
Yes, it was my year and I couldn’t have been more excited.
Laughter erupted from the dinner table as we exchanged stories and reminisced over countless memories. I knew that it would be a night to remember.
And it was. It was the best night I had had all summer.
But what I didn’t know is that that night would be the night that my entire world came crashing down.
As I lay in bed the next morning with my mouth partially open with an unquenchable thirst, I quickly reached over to my nightstand. Clenching my right hand tightly around a glass of water, I brought it to my lips and chugged fast.
“Much better,” I thought.
I turned my IPhone on silent to avoid the incessant stream of text messages I was receiving regarding the night before. Photos of my girlfriends and me bar hopping all over town flooded my Facebook newsfeed.
I looked at the clock. It was 8 a.m.
The aroma of freshly made coffee had snuck its way into my bedroom. I could hear my Mother downstairs vacuuming.
“That’s strange…. mom’s home on a Thursday morning?” I thought.
I quickly remembered she was leaving for Puerto Rico the next morning. Thank goodness; my mother deserved a vacation.
I sunk my head into my pillows. Even though I was slightly hung over, I was excited. After a busy summer that consisted of work and classes, I was finally taking some time off to go to Miami with my two best friends. My birthday weekend was about to commence.
My mother quietly knocked on my door.
She poked her head in.
“Mom! Come cuddle with me I can’t sleep,” I said.
Growing up, I was always a mommy’s girl. I wanted to be a daddy’s girl, but it didn’t quite work out that way. My father was an alcoholic and suffered from Bipolar disorder. Combine the two disorders, throw antidepressants into the mix and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.
He had his own pharmacy: Ambien to sleep, Percocet to alleviate the pain in his leg, Zoloft to treat the Depression. All the labels suggested, “Take one tablet by mouth with a full glass of water.”
Well, in the eyes of an alcoholic, liquor is water.
As a little girl, I grew up walking on eggshells, because I never knew when my dad was going to snap. I was always fearful, always anxious. But when times were good, they were good.
Daddy was loving and kindhearted and, oh how he could make me laugh. He was a goofball, a kid at heart. He was the man who read me stories for hours until I fell asleep; he was the man who gave me ice cream when mommy wasn’t looking; he was the most important man in my life; he was my daddy.
As for the man who was angry, violent, and abusive, well that wasn’t my daddy, but the demon inside him. It was this very demon, who slowly sucked the life out of him; it was this very demon who eventually robbed my siblings and I of the most important man in our lives.
My mother made her way through my bedroom, through the mess and clutter of clothes, books and shoes.
I waited for her to tell me how I needed to desperately clean my room.
She crawled into my bed instead.
“Mom I had such a great night!” I exclaimed.
She looked at me with her big brown eyes. She tried to smile but she couldn’t fool me.
“Mom….did something bad happen?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said.
My heart skipped a beat.
“Who is it about?” I asked.
“Your dad,” my mother stated. Tears streamed down her face.
She didn’t need to say anything else. I already knew.
My parents went through a nasty divorce. My grandpa passed away my freshman year of college without warning. Autopsy reports claim it was an accident, but the speculation of murder became the ultimate catalyst in my father’s drinking. His alcoholism slowly began to spiral out of control, and the demon inside him began to grow.
We placed him in rehab a few times. Each time he came out a changed man, and for a brief period daddy was back. The man who filled our house with love and laughter was back, and life was blissful again.
Only it never lasted long.
It was only a matter of time before the demon inside my father came out of hiding, destroying all the positive progress my daddy had made.
We did everything we could to help him, we really did,
But it got to the point where I was so sick of crying. I was so sick of my dad’s broken promises, so sick of living in fear and so sick of how cruel he was to my beautiful mother. How anyone could be mean to her is beyond me. She is the sweetest, most amazing person I know. She is my angel.
But daddy was so blind. He could no longer see that my mother was the best thing that ever happened to him. He could no longer see that my mom wasn’t just my angel, she was his too. ____________________________________________________________________________
The ceiling fan spun as I stared at my mother. I was anxious and apprehensive to hear her next words.
“Your father killed himself,” she said.
I looked at her.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“This has to be a nightmare,” I thought to myself.
Only it wasn’t.
She looked at me rubbing my head, crying. “I’m so sorry baby.”
Suddenly my heart began to pound and my hands began to tremble.
I started screaming and panicking and suddenly, I couldn’t breathe.
“No Mom,” I said. “How could this happen? How could he leave us without saying bye? I just started being happy again and now I’m never going to be happy again!” I screamed, angrily and sorrowfully.
“You have to be happy for me sweetie, you have to be happy because you have your whole life ahead of you,” my mother explained as she struggled to hold back her tears. “I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but there are going to be so many beautiful reasons to smile.”
In the months leading up to my parents’ divorce, the demon inside my father grew more than ever before, and this time, he didn’t go back into hiding. It was only a matter of time before my dad was unrecognizable, before the man who I loved and adored stopped coming around. It was only a matter of time before my daddy was gone.
In my eyes it was plain and simple.
My father chose alcohol over his family, and I would never forgive him for it.
Only that wasn’t the case. And it wasn’t that plain and simple.
The alcoholism and Bipolar disorder distorted my daddy’s vision and the way he perceived reality. What he failed to realize, is that what he saw was nothing more than a figment of his imagination.
Different memories of my dad and I played like a slideshow in my head, some bad, but mostly good. And just like that, all the anger I had toward him faded and all the love I had for him came rushing back.
My little brother came into my room as I lay crying harder than I’ve ever cried before.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Jeremy go to your room,” my mother told him.
He listened, and she followed him. She sat him down and told him the news. He cried.
As my mind raced and my heart grew heavier, my brother came into my room with a box of tissues. He lay down next to me. I laid my head on his chest as tears uncontrollably streamed down my face.
He tried to wipe away my tears, but they wouldn’t stop.
“It’s going to be okay Jaimie. We have mom and she’s amazing and dad isn’t in pain anymore,” Jeremy said as he tried to console me.
I was amazed. He was being so strong for me. We lay in bed for two hours, crying and holding each other. And in that moment I realized how much my brother had grown up. He was no longer my baby brother who ran around the house in diapers. He was 17, and a senior in high school. He was consoling me when I should have been consoling him, and he looked so much like daddy.
It’s been a month since my daddy passed, and in that time I have learned a lot.
I learned that alcoholism runs in the family, that daddy had been drinking since he was 12 years old.
I learned that as a little boy, my father was angry about his parents divorcing and he harbored so much of that hate that it grew to be a part of him, poisoning his mind and eventually killing his spirit.
I learned that his depression and struggle with alcoholism had absolutely nothing to do with my family or me. He was fighting a much larger demon than we realized, and in much more pain than I will ever understand.
As much as it breaks my heart to know that my daddy was so miserable, it breaks my heart even more that there was nothing I could do to save him.
But I know now that I was neither responsible nor capable of saving him. All I could do is love him and continue to love him after his passing.
So no, it wasn’t as plain and simple as I thought.
And no, my father did not choose alcohol over me. He loved me more than I will ever fathom, and he still loves me, and he always will.
And although I will never understand why things like this happen, I do know this:
You’re in a better place now Daddy. I love you dearly and forever and I will always be grateful for everything you have done for me. I’ll never forget the good times that we had: how you made me laugh, how you would let us stay up late to watch Looney Tunes with you, the way you always found an excuse to throw a party, because that’s how you wanted life to be, like a party.
You taught me to reach for the stars and that anything is possible. You worked your way up from nothing and I am forever proud. I miss you Daddy, I’ll always miss you. I know that you’re always with me though. I know I can look up at the Luna and you’ll be looking back at me, smiling.
So although my heart is heavy and I drown in my tears every night, I know that time heals all wounds.
And although I will never physically see my daddy again, I know that the best part of him is always with me. He is no longer suffering; he is finally free.
I’m 23 years old. I just started my senior year of college, and I recently learned that life is a gift, not a given.
Yes I’m only 23 years old and I have not one, but two angels guiding me now; one here on earth and one watching me from the heavens above.
Mom was right; there are so many beautiful reasons to smile.
Rest in paradise Daddy