Our Daughter’s Birthday Preparations Included Writing His Obituary
Peaking in the rear-view mirror, the little one was fast asleep clutching onto her blanket. An hour and forty-five minute drive for one 30-minute supervised visit seemed outlandish, but I had hoped these supervised visits would spark a want and need to stay sober. Last Christmas, I had brought her to the rehab, so he could give her the one gift the rehab had allotted the parents to give their children. Connor wasn’t in rehab by choice. After his third longer episode (or bid) in jail, the judge had ordered rehab. While we had long since separated, he was still my daughter’s father; so we would visit, or say, spend Christmas in rehab. My worst nightmare was having to one day explain to her why da-da was no longer.
I pulled into the driveway and there he stood, texting on his phone. The brim of his black cap faced backwards, like we were fifteen. I rolled my eyes. A notification popped up on mine: “How close are you?”. I honked and he nearly fell backwards. The old boat of a Buick was not quiet but he was so engrossed in whatever it was, he did not hear or see me parked 10-feet in front of him.
I turned the engine off, and opened the car door.
“I’m making dinner, if you guys want to stay.” Connor was offering a kind gesture, but I knew we had an hour and forty-five minute drive home. I did not want to stay longer than necessary.
“Thanks, she’s just woken up from napping.” I had planned the trip during naptime, hoping it would not interfere too badly with her schedule. I went to the back door, and little blue eyes smiled up at me.
“We’re here baby,” I felt her diaper knowing full well it was going to need a change. We had worked so hard at the potty, but had not yet mastered it.
I handed her to him, and held her hand to lead her up the stairs.
“Rae! It’s good to see you!” His dad, Jon, stood about five feet tall with a big belly. His glasses fell on his nose as he tried to get settled into his armchair.
“Where’s Isa-” before I could finish, Isaac turned the corner. He was an awkward looking ten year-old, nearly full Irish for American standards, bright red-orange hair, and ears like dumbo.
“Hey buddy! How’s school going?”
“Alright, but DAAAD won’t let me play video games.” He glanced over to his dad. Isaac was an unplanned pregnancy to say the least. Jon should be Isaac’s grandfather by age, and most of Isaac’s nieces and nephews were older than him. Isaac lived here full time, his mother, currently sentenced to federal prison for the next 15-years, was also due again soon. Jon had contemplated taking this baby on as well, even though it was not his by blood; Jon recognized the importance of Isaac knowing his soon-to-be sister.
“Isaac maybe you should tell your aunty that you never do your homework.” Isaac turned as red as a tomato, which was easy with his pale freckled skin.
“You know, I was a straight-A student in school, and all the way through college” Isaac thought I was cool and I hoped he’d think it was cool to get good grades considering his dad couldn’t read or write above a first grade level. I left out the part where I fell off the wagon and became a heroin-addict, destroying my credit and having to rebuild my life. But I did get good grades and went to college on full scholarship, so that was the truth.
“Da-da!” My daughter walked through the living room door into the kitchen. Isaac followed.
“I got her!” Isaac was always used to being the youngest and felt pride that he could help. I followed, knowing full well the dangers of a kitchen. The boiled dinner smelled amazing.
“Where did my asshole-of-a-son get off to?” Jon yelled from the living room.
“Not sure?!” I turned my head and yelled, Jon was going deaf and I doubt he heard me.
Isaac suddenly screamed.
“DAAHHD!! It’s CONN-” Before Isaac could finish I rounded the corner. I grabbed him, my daughter and pushed them back, slamming the door behind me. This bathroom was off the kitchen, Connor said he was going in to work on dinner and had gone into the bathroom to shoot up. Connor laid sprawled out in the bathtub. Shower, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles tossed from his fall. The bar on the tub that usually propped these items was broken off and on his lap. I had seen him overdose before numerous times. At this point, I was just angry. Isaac and our daughter had seen him this way. That can never be erased from a child’s mind. I checked his breath.
I dumped a cup of cold water on his face and slapped. “WAKE THE F*CK UP!”
I looked down and saw the needles and nearly a full gram of heroin. Being newly sober from IV-use heroin, you would think that it would have triggered me- but it just infuriated me. I grabbed the rigs and dope, and stuffed them into my sweater pocket, knowing full well when he came back to that would be all he cared about. I also took his cell phone, being as that I was paying for it so he could communicate with his daughter, and he was using it to get drugs. I figured if he could afford drugs, he could afford a phone.
I swung open the bathroom door and slammed it behind me. Jon was already standing in the kitchen alerted by Isaac.
“Call your son an ambulance. This is bullshit. I’m taking my daughter and leaving, want me to take Isaac for a ride too?” Jon nodded his head.
The three of us piled into the car. I held my tears back. Not sad tears. Just tears of pure anger and frustration. I had gotten sober, why couldn’t he? I didn’t want the kids to see me upset. I forced a smile at Isaac.
“You want McDonalds?” The kids cheered. I pulled out of the driveway and headed to the only McDonalds a few miles away.
“You know, my mom was the same way. We’d drive around for hours meeting her friends, and then she’d sleep. That’s why I was happy dad took me. Now I even have my own room.”
“I’m glad for you Isaac. Do you like living with your Dad?”
He perked up, “Yah, and it’s cool because now I have a brother. He’ll wake up. Mom always did. You don’t have to worry.” Children are so innocent, so sweet. It pained me that child protective and probation allowed Connor to live with them. It wasn’t fair to Isaac his big-brother was this way.
“Look we’re here!” I unloaded the kids, and headed into McDonald’s.
“What can I get?” Isaac, having lived in extreme poverty most of his childhood, was extremely conscious of spending.
“You can get anything you can eat!” He skipped ahead. I dropped the needles and the heroin into the outside trash, following Isaac in.
We pulled up into the driveway. No ambulance. No cops. No people. Jon’s car was still in the driveway. I left the car running, windows down, and walked Isaac to the door.
I grabbed the rigs and dope, and stuffed them into my sweater pocket, knowing full well when he came back to that would be all he cared about.
“Thanks aunty,” Isaac swung open the screen door, “Dad! Aunty brought us to McDonalds!” I could see Jon sitting in his armchair and turned to walk away.
“Rae!” Connor’s voice echoed out the door as I shut the car door, “Did you take my stuff?”
“You have to be out of your f*ckin mind Connor. Yah, it’s gone!” The anger began to boil.
“Well, where’s my phone?” I couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth.
“You mean my phone? The one I pay for so you can set-up visits? That’s gone too.”
I shifted the car in reverse and began to back out. Connor went to open my door and I hit the breaks. I slammed it shut. I continued to back out of the drive-way.
“Don’t I even get to say goodbye?” Connor yelled into the road.
“You lost that right.” I screamed back as I pulled away.
The next time I would see Connor would be to give the funeral director clothes for burial on our daughter’s third birthday.
**All names have been changed for confidentiality