It has almost been a year since my dad took his own life. In reality, we lost my dad a few years ago. The man that I grew up with, loved and respected slowly disappeared. The last time I can remember seeing my dad truly happy was my wedding three years ago. He and my mom took over the dance floor at the reception, challenging the younger couples to a dance off. We all noticed that Dad began to change from the man we knew and loved to someone we did not recognize. He began to withdraw from all of us and he became increasingly angry. He began to work more and miss family events. I knew my dad was truly not himself after my son was born. Dad used to talk about how excited he was to eventually be a grandpa. He would joke that he was going to give his grandkids whatever they wanted and spoil them because he knew that he could send them home. The day Henry was born Dad did not even hold him at the hospital. He said it was because he was tired and wanted to let my mom have her time with him.
Growing up my dad was my hero. I can remember being incredibly proud to say that he was a firefighter for the city of Covington. On my first day of high school, as I was leaving in the afternoon, I came around the corner to the main hall and there was my dad, in his uniform, standing at the entrance waiting to pick me up. Now some girls would have been embarrassed to see their dad waiting for them, but I was not. He was right where I needed him to be, just like he always was.
My mom called my dad the rock of the family, her rock. He was the protector, always putting his family first. He would put up with my mom’s family fun days on Sundays when we were little, even if that meant that we were spending the day at a Raspberry Festival in the middle of nowhere. We spent countless weekends, as a family, at Red River Gorge camping, hiking, building fires, and cooking. Dad could make the best wings around.
On July 3rd, 2017 I got a call from my mom at 7:00am. She asked if I would call UC hospital and find out where my dad was. He had called her saying he had admitted himself because he was having suicidal thoughts, but she didn’t know anything else and didn’t have anyone to cover her at work. I spent the next hour talking to doctors before I was able to talk to my dad. He sounded defeated and depressed and my heart broke. How could my dad, the strongest man I know, be struggling the way he was?
Dad got help, I was so proud of him, so thankful that he was still with us. The Wednesday and Thursday before dad committed suicide I was at my parent’s house for dinner. Dad had just completed his counseling, he seemed happy for the first time in a long time. He was laying on the floor with Henry talking to him about the gorge and how he was going to teach Henry how to build a fire and to fish, even though dad hated fishing. The last thing I said to my dad was how I loved that Henry had his bright blue eyes.
I still can’t believe that he is gone. There is a void in my life that will never be filled. I think about him daily. I still reach for my phone to send him a text or to call him. I walk into my parent’s house expecting to see him sitting at his computer wrapped in one of his blankets. I will never stop loving my dad. I am not ashamed of what he did, just deeply heartbroken that I could not help him. He will always be my hero and I know that if I follow his advice and do the right thing for the right reason he will be there with me.