My Dad

It happened so long ago, I barely remember, but bits and pieces are etched in my mind. So naive, I had no idea his loss would impact me for the rest of my life. I recall when my aunt came to the door, it was about 3:00am, I had just turned 10 years old so my estimation of the time could be off. We waited at the top of the stairs as my mom answered the door. “He’s been shot, you need to get to the hospital.” It gets foggy after that. It may have been a minute, an hour, or a day later, we arrived at the hospital. Lots of tubes but he could talk. That was refreshing. He spoke to all of us individually. His message to me, “you are the oldest, take care of them.” I do not know what he said to the others. We went to school the next day like life was normal. I remember crying on the school bus and I remember telling my teacher that my father had died. That is all I remember. I was a good student and I continued to be a good student. In time, school would be out for the summer…

A few days passed, the family was making arrangements for his care, a home, a nurse, etc. He was paralyzed from the neck down and required breathing assistance. The home was located, the nurse was hired now for rehab.

It was near the end of June and all of the children were at my aunts house. We were playing “rack up” in the front yard. I was a bit of a tom boy. Then the cars arrived. The adults had been at the hospital visiting my dad. I remember seeing my mom get out to my uncles cadillac, she was sitting in the back seat. She was slumped over in tears. I didn’t understand why she was so upset. One of my relatives walked her into my aunt’s house. I was trying to score a touchdown or trying to prevent a touchdown from being scored, I’m really not sure, but I kept playing. Then one of my older cousins asked…

He was gone. My dad died. I did not understand. All of the arrangements were made. I thought he was fine. Turns out he was not fine. He did not want to live as a quadriplegic but he refused to live attached to a breathing machine.

We went home. My stepdad was furious. He was yelling and screaming at my mom. He was extremely abusive. We had been gone all day and most of the evening. I remembered watching him grab my mom and her quickly telling him “he died, there father died, we’ve been at the hospital.” He did not know how to respond so he left for the evening, unfortunately I knew he would be back.

For years I told people, “my father died when I was ten.” I never wanted to be viewed as a weakling. I did not see strength in being a victim. And then one day I realized no, “my father was murdered and I am a victim of violent crime and the violence I endured has impacted my life.”

What I know for sure: I am no longer a victim. I choose empowerment. I am victorious…