Forgive Me, Daddy--A Short Story for My Father
Background on this Story
My father was an alcoholic. I loved him with all that was in me, but there was a big part of me that was angry with him for not being there for our family in the way we needed him to be. When he was sober he was the most warm, giving, loving, fun person you'd ever know. Even drunk you couldn't hate him. He was never a violent man.
I remember the day he and my mom parted ways for good. She'd put up with his addiction for several years, all the while battling her own problems. That day didn't go exactly as the one in this story, but it certainly inspired it.
This one is for you, Daddy. May it find you in Heaven.
Forgive Me, Daddy
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His shoulders hunched and trembled with emotion. He cradled his head in his hands, shaking it every so often as if trying to figure out how he had come to this. My father had never seemed so small to me before, and I cringed at knowing my part in his downfall.
I stepped outside from my place at the window and went to sit beside him on the porch. He looked at me then, and the impact of seeing tears in his eyes stole my breath. I glanced away, unable to meet those eyes, knowing I'd helped cause the pain pouring out of them.
"I guess this is it," Dad said.
"Yeah, I guess so," I managed to force the words out, feeling the burden of guilt weigh me down.
"I’ll miss you," he put his arm around me and pulled me to him in a fierce hug. The warmth of his embrace was nearly my undoing. I nearly choked on the sobs building up in my chest. I tried not to breath in the scent that was my father's. It usually brought me comfort, but not today.
"Don’t cry, honey. You have to be strong for your mom and Melody." His voice was gruff as he tried to hold back his grief.
"I can’t, Daddy. I just can’t!" I cried into his chest, pushing my face closer to him. I tried to bury myself in him--to purge myself of my traitorous actions.
"Shhhh…it’s okay. I know you can do it, Lindsay. I’ve seen you be the strongest one in the family so many times. Now is just another chance to prove your bravery." Dad gently set me back from him and smiled at me through regretful eyes. He brushed back the hair from my face and kissed my nose. "Everything will be fine. You’ll see."
But I knew it wouldn’t be, and it was my fault…
* * *
"Did your father stay home drinking today?" My mother had asked me. It was a familiar question. One I’d heard at least a million times. Usually I’d roll my eyes and make some non-committal sound before walking away from her. But that time was different; Dad had made me mad.
"Behind the garbage can, under the sink." I waited for the satisfaction to come from telling her. That would teach Dad for missing my performance in the talent show. He'd left me to stand up there all alone with no one to support me.
Immediately upon stepping on that stage, my eyes had scanned the audience desperately, looking for reassurance from his warm, loving eyes. I never found it. I'd needed him there to cheer me on. I'd counted on him and he'd let me down.
He wasn't there to smile proudly at me, bragging to the other parents that I was his . The moment I realized he wouldn't be there, that he'd forgotten his promise to me, my shoulders had dropped, my smile had become forced, my confidence shattered.
No matter what his flaws were, Dad had always been there for me; loving me, holding me, encouraging me in my mother's absence. Until now. Now they had both failed me.
I'd come to expect it from Mom, who put work above everything and everyone else, and who was always angry and never satisfied at home. But I didn't expect it from him .
He didn’t even come to get me when it was all over. He’d left me stranded. I’d had to stoop to asking for a ride home from Heather’s parents. How I hated Heather. She was the prettiest, most talented girl in my fifth grade class, which she proved by winning the talent show. Humiliation and outrage mingled inside of me when I sat next to Heather in the backseat of the car. I'd kept my eyes averted so that she and her perfect parents wouldn't see how shattered I was.
It was the last straw when I got home and found Dad asleep on the couch, stinking of alcohol. For once, I decided not to cover for him.
I didn't wake him and give him coffee, or start a cold shower to help him sober up. I didn’t make sure he hid all of the bottles before Mom got home from work. I didn’t erase the message from his boss, telling Dad he was fired.
This time I waited for Mom to come home, all the while plotting my revenge. But Dad had woken up before she arrived. He’d cleaned up and gone out to the store to get some dinner.
It was the message that gave him away. When Mom heard Dad’s boss on that machine, her face burned red with fury.
But telling Mom where to find the evidence hadn't given me the feeling I’d expected it to. Instead, my chest tightened, bile rose up in my throat, and sickness filled my gut. My body shook and my head was spinning. What had I done?
When dad got home, the fight that followed outdid any I’d ever witnessed before; and there had been many.
I hugged Melody to me on the floor of our bedroom, her soft little body molded to my side as she hugged me back. The paper-thin walls of our trailer were no defense against the battle that raged on the other side.
I tried to block out the hideous screaming, the knic-knacs crashing. I covered Melody's ears with the arm that held her to me. I tried to hum to calm her crying and cover my own. But I couldn’t. I couldn't escape the truth of what was happening on the other side of our bedroom door. It was all the more enhanced by the knowledge that I’d caused this. It was all my fault.
* * *
Now my father made his way down the porch steps, suitcase in hand. Mom pretended not to watch him through the kitchen window, and Melody--innocent, six-year-old Melody-- collapsed in tears at the door as she watched our daddy walk away.
I tried to be brave by her side; tried to quiet her tears, but my own treachery made it impossible for me to stay strong.
"Daddy! Don’t go!" I yelled.
When he stopped, I settled Melody away from me and ran to him. I threw my arms around his waist and cried. "I’m so sorry, Daddy! It was me! I told…" I couldn’t say anymore through my wrenching sobs.
He set down his suitcase and then moved his hands to my chin, forcing me to look up at him. But I couldn’t meet his eyes yet. I didn’t want to see the anger there; the betrayal.
"Look at me, Lindsay."
I jerked my eyes to his, and was surprised to see only love.
"None of this is your fault. It’s my fault."
I shook my head in denial, starting to explain about the talent show and about my awful revenge.
"No, honey, that’s not what this is about. This is my fault. Not yours. Daddy has a problem, Lindsay, and until I can get better, I have to leave here."
He hugged me close and kissed the top of my head before picking up his suitcase and walking away; a solitary, dejected man who somehow gave me hope with his ready forgiveness.
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