My Other Father
First off, let me state, I love my father. I bear him no ill will and I wish him all of the good things life has to offer. He is a good man. A man of faith and convictions. A man who raised me, kept a roof over my head for 17 years and taught me a lot of things about life. I respect him and love him for the fact that he has had my back in situations where I had no where else to turn and for the fact that he has stood by my mother throughout the many years that her illness has left her in very bad health.
Unfortunately, my fathers religious convictions and faith are part of the reason we do not see each other. You see, my father is a Jehovah's Witness. I was raised in a Jehovah's Witness household and I have been disfellowshipped for over a decade now. I can count on one hand the number of meaningful conversations I have had with my father in the last ten years. I respect him for having a faith so strong that he would deny his own son in the name of religion but it does not mean that it did not hurt.
I know many of you will not understand the reasons behind this treatment. In my fathers eyes, I am dead. I do not exist. He does associate with my oldest son but my other two children have yet to really be accepted into the family circle. This is his loss. I will not force him to see his grandchildren if he does not want to. I understand the reasons for his faith and the strength of his convictions and that is enough, so please, do not judge him harshly. He is a man and he alone will answer at Judgement.
In truth, I owe him a debt for turning his back to me. If he had not done this, I would never have met my other family and my other father. A father I chose because he loved me and wanted me to be his son.
I first met Bill Copley when I was about 19 years old. I had been out on my own for two years at that point. I answered an advertisement in the local paper about a live in job as a caregiver. Bill was in his early seventies then. I had just worked three days in the nursing home on no sleep and I crashed before the interview. I woke up a half hour after the interview was scheduled and called to apologize. Bill asked me if I could still come over and discuss the job. I really needed the job and I appreciated the opportunity so I drove like a bat out of hell and got to his home in about 20 minutes.
He hired me on the spot and I stayed there that night. Bill had started a home based health care business in the late 1960's. When I went to work for him, he was taking care of a little lady named Edna Erwin. Bill had taken care of Edna and her late husband until he passed away a few years before and since Edna feared living alone, she moved into the lake house with Bill. My job was to take care of Edna and the basic housekeeping and maintenance for the house. In exchange, I had a place to live, food to eat and a very nice paycheck every month.
Edna, Bill and I lived in the lake house until early in 1997 when we moved into a condominium unit. I celebrated my 21st birthday that year and Bill took me out for my first legal drink. We had dinner at a really nice Mexican restaurant. I remember the drink... It was a Pancho Margarita. It was served in a huge margarita bowl with a straw. Bill reminded me that the fill in worker, at that time it was my little sister, Tonya, would need to be off work in 20 minutes when the server brought me the drink so I hurriedly slurped the whole drink down. I had already had about six beers as well.
I did fine on the ride home. I walked up to the porch just fine. But when Bill handed me his doggy bag with fried chicken in it, it was too much. I puked like I was going to die. My sister sat at the top of the stairs and laughed at me while Bill went and got me the hose. It was then that he taught me an important lesson: If you are going to drink like a man, you clean up your own mess.
Bill taught me a lot of lessons. He became my father. I celebrated my first Christmas, my first birthday party, and my first Thanksgiving with Bill. He taught me that the world I was raised in as a Jehovah's Witness was not the evil place I had been taught. People could care about others besides themselves. Bill encouraged me to go to school and paid for my courses. When I started dating, he always made sure to give me a little extra spending money for the evening and he was the one who had the birds and bees talk with me.
I'm not saying everything was always great. We had our fights like any father and son relationship. I have seen days where my temper has gotten the better of me and I punched a steel door because he made me mad. But here is the crucial point, with Bill, I could say I am sorry and he would accept it. He could never admit that he was wrong but I am quite easy to get along with so quietly letting a subject drop was like an apology to me.
In late 1999, I married my second wife. Bill was not fond of her and I now understand why, but at the time, I loved her. For the first year of my marriage, I still lived in at work and went home one night a week. In 2000, my son, Marc Anthony, was born. It was then that I started staying at home.
Marc went to work with me every day and he was Bill's grandson. He was lavished with love and presents. When Bill went out, Marc usually went with him. Marc was dressed in tiny little custom tailored suits and he was Bill's pride and joy. He could do no wrong.
I remember how extreme this got from one experience at a restaurant. We went out for dinner and Marc wanted spaghetti so Bill made the server run to the Italian restaurant next door to buy him a plate of spaghetti. By the time she returned with the spaghetti, Marc had decided he didn't want it. He threw the plate in the floor. The server started to clean it up and Bill stood up and told her she would not clean it up until he had ordered his meal and sat down and ordered a fresh meal for Marc and himself. That was how much Marc meant to Bill.
There were a lot of experiences like this over the years. Unfortunately, those experiences are delegated solely to my memories now. Bill died a little over a year ago in the hospital. Pneumonia claimed him. This is one of the hardest things I have written in some time.
Bill had no family other than me. He had been married once but after the divorce, his stepson had deserted him. I stayed with him all week in the hospital. I watched him struggle to hold on to life. He would not eat for the hospital staff but when Marc came in with a chocolate shake and asked him to drink, he did. He had not seen Marc for some time at this point because someone had made false accusations against him and I foolishly kept my son away thinking I was protecting my son. I know Bill has forgiven me, I only hope God will. It was not fair of me to keep my son away from a man who loved him so much but I was doing what a father is supposed to do.
The night Bill died, I was there. The doctors told me that there was no hope of him recovering but they would leave the machines on for as long as I wanted. I had watched Bill fight for a whole week. Every time they put the mask on him, he would rip it back off. He was tired. He was ready to go. I believe he had made his peace and I made the decision he wanted me to make. No matter what I believe though, it boils down the simple fact that I made the decision that killed him.
I thought a lot about that. I screamed a lot about that. I have spent whole nights arguing with the sky, telling Bill that it wasn't fair... he didn't have the right to ask me to make that decision... that I wasn't ready to make that choice.
It took me a long time to be all right and, some days, I still am not. The decision to let him go was made for him, not me. If I had my choice, he would still be with me today. But that was another lesson, Bill taught me...
Sometimes, truly caring about someone means putting their best interests first, even if it hurts like hell. Sometimes, being a man means making the hard choices and dealing with the consequences.
It's time I close this story. It takes too much out of me to write this. Perhaps another day, I will tell some more but for now the story must close with simple words of a son to a father: I love you, Dad.
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