My Father’s High
When asked “What is the biggest social problem facing Del Norte County?” youth overwhelming identify drug and alcohol abuse. Lack of treatment options, poverty, unemployment, and a culture of socially accepted use compound the problem.
Two youth journalists, Ryan Waite and Paul George, bravely stepped forward to tell their stories.
Events involving my father seem to have happened in a previous life. I feel detached from them. Somewhere between the domestic violence and the drug use, I became numb to feelings about my father. His actions drove my mother away, after several “lessons” involving broken bones and other physical harm.
Sometime after the separation, my father made an attempt to reconnect with me and my brother. We were invited for ice cream. We had no reason not to accept, though it was awkward and uncomfortable. We sat through it. I noticed that he looked odd, but I didn’t know why. I would find out years later, on my sixteenth birthday.
He asked to meet me at the lighthouse. It was gloomy and overcast. I wasn’t aware of the damage he had done to himself over the years after he had driven us away, but it was evident when I saw him. Most of his teeth were gone. The rest were rotten. He had sores and scabs on his face and body, and he tripped over his words when he spoke. The meeting did not last long. He gave me a birthday card in the end containing five dollars. He scribbled “happy birthday sun” on the inside of the card. The spelling of “sun” still stands out in my mind, adding insult to injury. He was so removed from my life—and from reality. He wasn’t even referring to me, his child, but to the literal sun, on the card.
Our community has its fair share of broken families and scattered parents. Sadly, my story is not uncommon.
One day, I got home from school and my parents were both home, quite drunk. My dad was watching television in his chair in the living room, trying to drown out my mom, like usual. She wanted to talk about how he never wanted to talk. It was an ongoing cycle. She was attempting to compete with our new Bose stereo system, and she was losing.
I went into my room to take care of my homework, but from the volume coming from the television, I could tell I wouldn’t get anything done. My dad locked himself in the bedroom. My mom was saying, “We have to talk eventually, so come out. You can’t hide in your little bedroom forever.” She started knocking, banging, and trying to open the door. The door swung open, and the look on my dad’s face was not one of the caring father I so rarely saw. It was one of frustrated determination and deep intoxication.
He grabbed her by the ponytail and dragged her into the living room. He made no sound while he walked. I was standing in the hallway entrance, then, pleading with him not to hurt her.
He answered back with, “I wouldn’t have to hit her if she would just shut up!” Then he punched her face and swung her around until she was bloody, all the while yelling, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
I yelled at my dad, “Stop! Only a monster would hit a woman! You are a monster! I hate you!”
He threw her to the ground and she staggered out the front door, leaving her blood behind. I tried to be calm and tell my dad to stop. The only thing he muttered was, “If she comes back inside, I’m going to kill her. If she won’t be quiet, I will make her quiet.”
He walked into the bedroom and put his dresser in front of the door so that my mom wouldn’t be able to sleep in her own bed that night. I grabbed a washcloth and found her outside, crying and bleeding. I handed her the washcloth and told her, “It’s safe now. You can come back in.”
My mom was crying, not because of the pain. She was used to that by now. But because she just wanted a nice family. She wanted a good, safe home for me, but that was not what I really had.
Alcohol has plagued my life without me ever touching a drop.
By Ryan Waite and Paul George