I remember I intruded on my father as he was preparing to fire up a crack pipe once when he moved back home, living in our basement. I said, “Is there anything that can make you stop doing drugs Papa?” He looked me in my eyes with a cold look and clearly irritated that I was interrupting his flow and said, “No.” What about your wife Papa?” He said, No!” Now with tear rimmed eyes and a trembling voice I asked, “Not even your kids Papa?” He stared at me with eyes bold, glaring and lips frayed back like the Joker, from Batman, as a side effect of the drugs. “NO, THERE AIN’T NOTHING IN THIS WORLD THAT COULD MAKE ME STOP DOING DRUGS!” As far as I am concerned, my father died on the spot because I wouldn’t have a relationship with him for about another 15 years.
Papa was resurrected and became my father again. The first man that I loved and loved me back was now drug free. And it was religion that became his foundation and the thing in this world to help him to be free from addiction for over 13 yrs now. He found the something in this world that gave him life.
He busied himself by returning to school, explored being a drug counselor, considered heating and air conditioning and attended church every Wednesday evening and class on Saturday. Throughout the week he worked part time, got on every program he was eligible for, secured senior housing and dreamt and believed his way to a job that he sought for ten years.
Before he found work, Papa became the babysitter for his youngest grandchild who affectionately calls him Pop Pop. For the first time in his life he completely devoted himself to giving her all he had to make it right.
The irony of that passage from the book Uncovering God's Love For You and the picture above is that my father's sentence was reduced to serve a portion of his time in a halfway house on Chicago's west side. Our relationship began to bloom again. Who knew he would walk me down the aisle, attend my children's graduations, become my best friend and confidante and the one who I would come to count on during the darkest and brightest days of my life.
I was no longer a teary eyed teenager, enraged and insulted by his gall to smoke drugs in our home using our basement window as a revolving door, for what at the time I called, his "crackhead" friends. In my field of work, the moment I walked into a home where drugs were being used my body would have a physical, flashback response. My chest would flutter, become heavy and I would begin to slightly pant. This response during my days as an investigator was of benefit to me because my body would react from the fumes.
I had become a professional woman who earned a bachelor and master's degree during his absence, established a career in child welfare and committed myself to facilitating groups for non resident fathers.
Project Brotherhood was one of the places I ran a father's group to help him reconnect with their children, forgive themselves for their absence and rebuild their position as father. So I imagine the choice of shirt I wore that day was symbolic of where we were about to be in life. He would come to do all of things I just mentioned.
In my chapter, I speak to the impact that fatherlessness had in my life. His absence compounded with his drug use was devastating to the family system and would have a long lasting effect for decades on all of us. The light of this story is people have the capacity to change and it is the serenity prayer that says it better than anything else:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.