When I was ten years old, my Dad went to prison. His abscense left me feeling insecure, unsafe and undisciplined. He was larger than life to me. His omipresence radiated even after he was gone. I had no picutres of him, just a pencilied grey self protrait of himself behind grey bars. His eyes, even on that paper were full of love and despair.
Until I was fifteeen, Dad and I wrote to each other often. Mom moved out of town and I moved in with a boyfiriend. I never recieved another letter from Dad once we moved. I thought that I would never hear from him again. Not knowing where he was was, ate me up inside. I did mail several letters to him but never recieved a response. I wondered if he had just not recieved the letters, or if maybe he was moved to different prison.
Then, one muggy summer afternoon, the telephone rang, it was for me. “Hello?” I said. A strange, yet familiar voice on the other end replied, “Stephy-Doodle?”
Six years of longing crept into my stomach and up to my throat. I could barely speak. I felt as if I were choking, I asked “Dad?”. I cried as he asked where I was and if we could meet for coffee. I was trembling and sweating, crying tears of relief, joy and bewilderment that he had found me.
During the next fourteen years, Dad and I reconnected. We spent hours at the kitchen table, drinking coffee, smoking cigarrettes and reflecting on life. We never missed a birthday and celebrated every Holiday as if they would be our last. We even lived close to each other, living side by side in a duplex at one point in time. Sometimes Dad would call me just to start singing into the telephone, “I just called to say I love you…” by Stevie Wonder. I felt that I knew Dad pretty well and he was the only person who really knew me.
Dad had not seen a doctor since 1972, so when I recieved a call at work on May 26, 2006, saying that he was in the hospital, I froze. Time stood still. My heart raced, thumping through every fiber of my being. Everything around me went grey and blurry. I rasped “I’ll be right there, where is he, Westfield?” I hung up the telephone in slow motion and turned to my boss. He could see the terror that I felt and simply told me to go. I did not say a word.
I drove as fast as I could without getting pulled over. I prayed the whole way from Dunkirk to Westfield. I prayed that there was a mistake. I prayed to a God that I did not know. My hands were so wet with sweat by the time that I arrived there, I could barely open the door. I was angry when my hand slipped from the handle of the emergency room doors. I somehow managed to get into the hospital. The smell of disinfectants stung my nostrils as I walked to the front desk.
Published in: Family