Saturday, May 26, 2007

But We Love Him Anyway

My beautiful father

My beautiful daughter

“I’ll take care of Dad, if you take care of my kids,” I said. Mom was worried he’d do something embarrassing at my brother Rickie’s wedding.

She laughed. “Even after all these years, I still stress over how your dad will act in public.”

Mom referred to Dad’s alcoholism and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one with those fears. When Dad had at first declined the invitation, Rickie didn’t argue. But Carly said, “I want at least one of our dads at our wedding.” Her dad died when she was young. She has his name tattooed on her back.

Dad did so well. He didn’t drink all morning. He was completely sober, but I could see that it was hard for him. When I asked him if they were staying the night, he’d said no. But he was wavering after I’d offered to pay for his hotel. I could see behind his eyes, the way he looked inward and struggled.

He had intended to stay sober for the entire event, then duck out early and drive home. Maybe it was because Rickie had “a talk” with him. Or maybe it was because even Dad was worried he’d do something embarrassing at the wedding. He had good intentions, as they say. But I gave him an out with the hotel thing, or maybe he wouldn’t have made it anyway. He started drinking at around two that afternoon.

Dad had a lot of anxiety before the wedding. That’s why he declined in the first place. He didn’t tell me, but a daughter knows her father. And why not? Twenty years since he’d been in the same room with my mother and the rest of the family. He can see himself in the mirror. He knows he’s aged hard. He’d had new teeth made. I wonder how he felt when he realized he’d left them behind in Nanaimo, in the truck. I told him it didn’t matter because he was beautiful just the way he is. And I meant it.

When Mom and Dad saw each other at the wedding, we all held our breath. Mom was a trooper. I don’t think anyone could tell her smile was fake or that she started to decline when Rickie asked them to take a photo together. It was the very first photo of all five of us – my brothers, me, Mom and Dad. If another exists in this world, I don’t know of it.

My mom and stepdad, Geoff, had already gone home with my kids by the time Dad needed to be taken to a hotel. I took up a collection (my mom’s brothers chipped the most) and told Dad it was time to go. He was drunk enough to argue a little. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said in his firm-and-deadly voice. But I reasoned that we were all going and I had to get him a room somewhere so I could go home too.

Hotel rooms were scarce in New Westminster – we went to three with no vacancies – so Dad said “take me to the Turf” and we needed no more prodding than that. My sober cousin, Dave, was driving. Dad waited in the car while Dave and I secured a room. Looking back I think Dave didn’t want me walking into the Turf alone, but I was too drunk to realize it. (If he only knew the places I’ve stayed and worked as a dancer, he’d not have worried a bit.)

“I’d like a room for my dad,” I told the Asian beer store clerk. “He’s drunk. Will that be a problem?” It’s the Turf, so I didn’t think there should be a problem, but the Byrd up the street was evicting prostitutes which seemed ridiculous, so maybe the Turf was evicting drunks?

“Where is he?” asked the clerk.

“He’s out in the car. Do you need to see him?”

The clerk didn’t say anything. He just took my money after I assured him Dad wouldn’t wreck the room. After all, the room was in my name.

I said goodbye to Dad in the parking lot. “I’ll pick you up in the morning and drive you to your car,” I said as he stumbled off towards the beer store. He wouldn’t know where he was come morning. I just hoped he found his room okay.

That night, as I lay in bed in my parent’s guest room next to my man, listening to the kids breathing on the foamy on the floor, and alternately going from chills to sweats in a prelude to vomiting – I worried I wouldn’t get to my dad in time. He’d wake up around 5 in the morning like he always does. He’d wonder where “the fuck” he was and wouldn’t remember my promise to pick him up. So, at 6:30 am when my kids woke me up, I got dressed to go get my dad.

Cody came with me. He seemed a little surprised when I told him what I was doing. But he quickly deducted the obvious and agreed we should go together. Cody had gotten really close to my dad. He went out of his way for him – like I’ve never seen him do for anyone. He had become a co-parent with me in my dad’s and my fully-functional role-reversal. So a 7:00 a.m. hangover drive to Surrey seemed appropriate.

We were speeding over the Patullo discussing the recent car accident deaths on the bridge when we saw the flashing red and blue lights. I slowed down quickly to avoid a speeding ticket. We both saw him at the same time – my dad – standing in the oncoming lane beside a police car talking to a boy in blue.

“Shit. Shit. Shit.” It seemed like forever to get across the bridge and turn around. Please let us get there before they leave, I prayed out loud repeatedly. Cody was giddy with excitement. He kept laughing.

“I’m so glad I came with you,” he said boisterously. “What an adventure.” His eyes sparkled. I chuckled to myself and decided to let him have the glory. This kind of excitement wasn’t new to me. The moment we pulled up behind the cop car, Cody jumped out of the car while I waited in the driver’s seat.

I’ll never forget the look on Dad’s face when he realized it was Cody walking towards him. He lit up with more joy than any kid I’ve ever seen on Christmas morning. It warmed my heart to see it. He couldn’t believe we’d come for him that early in the morning.

The policeman sent Dad to sit in the car with me while he took Cody’s information. He’d been taking my dad to jail to dry out when we pulled up. “I don’t want to see your father-in-law again today,” he said as he released Dad into Cody’s custody.

Dad was shitfaced but I got the story out of him eventually. “I argued with that little Chinese bastard all night. He finally said to me, ‘Is your name Trina Ricketts?’ And I said, ‘Well, no, that’s my daughter.’ And he said, ‘Then shut up.’” He laughed loudly at his own narrative.

Dad explained that he’d woken up and knew he was at the Turf but didn’t remember me telling him I’d get him in the morning. He didn’t have a cell phone or any numbers on him, so after a few drinks and a chat with an early morning staff person at the hotel, Dad decided to make his way to New West. The cop told Cody that Dad had been walking down the wrong side of the bridge – the side without a sidewalk – and was staggering into the lanes.

My dad was so impressed that we’d come to “save him.” He couldn’t stop thanking us and telling us how much he loved us. We spent the morning at my brother’s. TJ had heard Dad at the door and was relieved when he opened to see me and Cody standing there with him. He was two years old when Mom and Dad split. And he’d never had to manage Dad in a drunken stupor – that job had always been mine.

Later we passed Dad off to his stepson with a heartfelt goodbye and silent deep relief. He would get home safe. I was happy to get back to Mom and Geoff’s house to have breakfast with my kids.

Sophia, my seven-year-old with a heart of pure love, must have been listening intently when we told our morning story to my parents. She may have been listening later when I cried quietly in my bedroom and told Cody I didn’t know why I was crying, just that it had to do with my dad. I don’t honestly know what made her say it. But the day after Dad went home and I was still recuperating from family fatigue, Sophia made an unexpected announcement.

“I’m never going to drink or do drugs, Mommy,” she said shyly. “Because…” she hesitated for a second, “…I don’t want to be like Grandpa Terry.” I gave her a hug. I didn’t know what to say at first. Then it came to me.

“But we love him anyway, don’t we, Angel?” She nodded and smiled, then ran off to play with her dolls.


tracy said...

Yer Papa is your Papa and he will always be who he is. Seems as tho' you're beginning, with fear :), to get to a place where he can be who he is and love him regardless. His life is not a reflection on yours, you have too much of mum in you for that. IT DOESN'T MATTER what anyone thinks or feels about him, you love him and I think in many ways you've kept him afloat all these years. Even if the calls come in once every two years your Papa never stops thinking of you.

tracy said...

As a side note btw you can tell my Sticky little brother that I am far from impressed there was no gold hand lettered wedding invitation in my mail box to his wedding. As payment for this I want him on facebook immediately.

Trina Ricketts aka Annie Temple said...

HAHAHA! You're hilarious. I'll pass on the message.