I was on the bus accompanying a friend on a Saturday morning when the name of my uncle appeared on the screen of my phone. I had seen him a few months ago when he came to my city for one day, so I thought he needed to ask me something related to that.
“Hi, Tiffany,” he started. “All good? How are you?”
He sounded so calm that I would have never imagined the words that come after that.
“I need to tell you some news. Bad news. Well, not bad. Yesterday your father and his wife had this argument at night. It seems it got complicated, and somehow they ended up at the police station. While the police were interviewing his wife at the office, your father used his shirt and hung himself.”
I felt the time stopped around me. I was shaking and crying quietly. I couldn’t articulate any words, and the feelings were blurring my ideas.
“We don’t know why he did it, we think was the mix of the drinks he had had before and the problems at his house. They found him and tried to help him. It was a little too late. The brain had been without oxygen for some time, so your father didn’t respond. His heart still working, though. He’s in a coma, and we are trying to move him to the city. He’s alive, so there’s hope.”
I babbled that I understood what he had told me, I asked him to keep me informed if anything happened, and hang up.
While I was drying my tears, I told my friend what had happened. I tried to breathe and assimilate the information better. I kept doing my morning activities as nothing has happened. I wanted to distract my head so I wouldn’t start crying again.
At noon, I met my mother because I was helping her to buy some new furniture for her house. Yet I couldn’t organize my ideas for sharing this news with her. When we finally sat down for lunch, she asked me what I wanted to tell her. As soon as I started talking, I cried. She covered her mouth in horror and cried with me for a few seconds.
When I was finally calmed, I explained there was still hope. She asked if I wanted to travel and see him, but at that moment, I couldn’t find the strength to face the situation.
My parents got divorced when I was eleven, my mother and I moved to another city and started a new life together. While I was growing up, I kept asking myself many times why did they decide to separate and break a family that, for me, seemed so perfect. I kept remembering my old habits of being free and going to the main square in my small home town, where I could spend hours playing with my friends.
At the new city, everything felt overwhelming, and I lost the ability to trust on the people my age. I was still interested in books, games, and dreaming about other worlds. The other youngsters were already into alcohol, kissing, and more. It was not fair for me. I had so many questions for my mother until one day, we lay on her bed, and she started explaining.
My father had one bad habit: consuming alcohol in excess. She told me there were weekends he got lost in time while drinking with his friends. But she hid it, telling me he was working. While he was drunk, he had hit my mother a couple of times. She had decided to stay because she wanted me to have a fantastic childhood. In the end, she couldn’t take it anymore.
I heard her story and knowing this, all that she had kept for me in secret, broke my heart a little. I was about fifteen when that night; I started thinking of my father as someone I knew while growing up. I couldn’t accept, respect, or forgive his actions towards my mother. I was profoundly hurt, and I thought that now he had a new wife, he didn’t care about me either.
About four days passed after my uncle’s call. They had succeeded in finding a clinic in a city four hours away from their town. The doctors were trying their best but told them to be realistic. There was a big chance my father would never awake, and if he did, his life would never be the same.
I was leaving my job on a Wednesday when my uncle sent me a text with the news. They had tried to take the artificial respiration, but the body collapsed. They didn’t know if he was going to pass the night. He knew how was my relationship with my dad, yet he was asking me to go and see him probably for the last time.
I packed me fears, nervousness, and a little hope and traveled. When I arrived at the hospital, my father was still alive but without the certainty for a new day. People I haven’t seen in years received with smiles and loving hugs, even in that situation. I was in shocked and confused. We had some talks while we were in the waiting room, then my family took me to eat dinner with them.
Finally, at the hotel, I tried to understand how these people were so calm and have treated me with so much love. I had changed, they had too. Yet, they still loved me. I couldn’t sleep well and kept watching my phone, thinking something terrible was going to happen that night. I had the sensation I wanted to go back home, with my cats and talk to my mother. I felt I didn’t belong there anymore.
The next day, during the morning everything remained the same. Time passed slowly. In my mind, I kept wondering if I was doing the right by staying. Indeed, he was my biological father, and I had vague memories of my childhood. Yet I still had him as a stranger from my past in my heart.
In the middle of the afternoon, the doctors told us only three of us could visit him. His brothers told me to go and explained to the nurse standing at the door; I was his daughter. She looked at me unsure, probably because I appeared in the scene and allowed me to enter.
The man laying on that bed wasn’t a stranger. I saw his familiar face, and happy memories passed through my eyes. He was my hero, the strongest man I have known in the town. He was still my father. And there he was like he was taking a nap and I thought, that if I look at him long enough, he was going to open his eyes as he used to when I was a child. Nothing happened.
Why did you do it, I asked. I disliked you. I hated you. Why did we have to reunite like this?
When I looked at him again after a few moments, a saw a man. A man who had committed many mistakes and had made poor choices. They were his choices. Maybe he hoped for the best and couldn’t share certain feelings with the rest of us. I wondered if I had hurt him as he hurt me, I am not sure I didn’t. I kissed his forehead, I asked for forgiveness, and I also forgave him. I did love him.
That night I said goodbye to everyone, hugged them, and got back home. Since there was nothing I could do there to help them, I told them I would keep continuing praying for all them. My father passed away the Thursday after I had visited him. I felt sad at that moment because he wasn’t a stranger anymore; he was my father. I found peace in the idea we both had forgiven each other, and that reasons we got apart were mistakes, and we all make mistakes.