A Toast to My Father

Well Dad, you would have been 74 years old today. I'd drink a shot of George Dickle for you, since it was your favorite, but I can't stomach that shit. You've been gone a while now, but I still think about you sometimes. I've come to realize you did the best you could while you battled your demons and for that I suppose I should thank you. 

I have three or four memories of you that overpower all others. The most profound was when I was 12 in 1976. You had stole a car to come to Chesapeake to see mom and us and you brought me back to Richmond to stay with you for a couple of weeks. I was the spoils of war. You had wanted to bring my brother back but he was only eight and couldn't stay by himself while you went to work. I'll never forget how you left me alone in that shithole trailer off the pike for two or three days at a time with nothing to eat, and when you did show up you were drunk. I'll also never forget what you said to me that one night, "Johnny, I love your mom more than I love you and your brother or sister. I only brought you down here so I’d have an excuse to take you back and see your mom again." I never told them that. It was bad enough that I had to hear it.

I felt sorry for you dad. I already felt sorry for myself. I had demons too, but you and mom never noticed. It"s OK tho, after that, I knew I was on my own, it's good to know where you stand in life. I never really put much faith in you or mom after that summer. I reckon you got me to "man up" after all. Yeah, I remember that conversation too, I was nine and you were an asshole for that.

Another strong memory was 1984 when I was in the Army, stationed at Ft. Gordon Ga. We were driving the back roads half drunk and you threw that little plastic clock out the car window and said, "Time fly's when your having fun". We laughed and laughed. We really were having fun. We had a lot of fun in those years I was in the Service. Probably the best we ever had together. Figures... I hated the Army.

The last ten years of your life we got along ok. It was my wife of course. You loved her so much. She could do no wrong. If I hadn't married her, you and I would have parted ways long ago. Of that I'm sure. I remember taking you to the hospital one Christmas morning and begging the doctors not to cut off your leg; to no avail. Those weeks long drunken binges cost you didn't they. 

The last two years of your life, I remember coming by your place every couple of mornings with coffee and breakfast. We'd talk, while I cleaned up your kitchen and dumped those little buckets of piss, it was nice. Not dumping those buckets tho....that was fucking nasty.

The last year of your life. Stage four lung cancer they told you. We knew it was over. Won't nothing for it. End of the road. You moved in with my brother and he did good for you, y'all were two peas in a pod. That last night of your life, after we got you settled down for the evening I knew it wouldn't be long till your tormented soul would finally be free. As I was saying good bye for the night, I told you I loved you. You and I never really said that very much to one another. I wanted to say more. I wanted to hold your hand. You were so scared. You were looking away when you said, "I love you too son", it was one of the only times I believed you. You didn't hardly look my way when I left. I got the call you had died about three hours later.

So tonight I'll throw back a few shots of tequila in your honor. I know how much you hated tequila.....


Richmond, VA

I’m just a face in the crowd. A name in a phone book no one uses anymore.

John West1 Comment