Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:58 PM
The political world has been upended by news of Eliot Spitzer’s connection to a prostitution ring. Apparently, the scandal was flushed out when bank officials noticed several suspicious cash transfers and filed reports with the IRS. Many thought that it was a possible corruption scandal, but were shocked when Spitzer, the “Sherif of Wall Street,” was linked to a high-end call-girl service.
Sex and politics are not strange bedfellows. Several prominent politicians have found themselves on the wrong side of a sex-scandal, but news of Spitzer’s improprieties have many calling this once moral crusader, a hypocrite. Honestly, I could care less who Gov. Spitzer was sleeping with. That is between him and his wife, but this scandal brings up a myriad of other questions, namely, when does one move from being a human being, wrought with contradictions and complexities, to a hypocrite, devoid of any moral leg to stand on?
Thinking about the contradictions involved in Spitzer’s debacle brought to mind the complexities and contradictions that have shaped my father’s life. My father, a 30+ year veteran teacher and coach, has worked hard to teach, mentor and mold some of our most troubled youth, but he is also a functioning drug addict.
I have never said those words aloud. Never admitted to anyone that my father is addicted to drugs, nor allowed myself to think about it in any meaningful way. Likewise, he has never admitted it to me, but the signs are clear. My father, once vibrant, has deteriorated into a paranoid, heartbroken, functioning junkie. That stings, but cleaning it up doesn’t make it better.
I often wonder how broken you have to be to get hooked on drugs. How much pain do you have to live with until you say, “enough,” and fall into the comforting nod of cocaine? My dad has seen a lot. He lost his father at 7, saw his dreams of a NBA career wither away, and lost the love of his life, my mother. Apparently, my father’s drug use was constant throughout my parent’s 14-year marriage, but then, it was only weed. I distinctly remember a box my father kept which contained his “homemade cigarettes.” He never smoked in front of us, but he’d purchase Zig Zags and close himself off in his room for a while, then a strange smell wafting through the house. Like a teenager looking for an escape hatch, my father fell right in.
Soon his drug use turned to abuse and his paranoia led him to question every move my mother made and become violent. Mentally exhausted and tired of the drama, my mom moved us out to my grandparent’s house and my father’s downward spiral began.
I believe he sold all of our stuff. Everything we didn’t move out of the house is now gone: my mother’s piano, my flute, our TVs, bikes, our dog. I don’t have anything from my childhood that was left in that house. During those first few months and years of their separation, my father was vehemently angry. Everything was my mother’s fault. She kept us away. She was evil. She was a bitch. He threatened and threatened, and I realized I didn’t even know him anymore.
It has been 13 years since my parent’s divorce was final, and I’m still looking for the father I once knew. I catch glimpses of him from time to time, but the moments spent talking about and enjoying life have faded away to mere memories. My father still uses drugs. At 56 he has nothing. No car, no house, no place to call his own. He lives with my uncle and aunt, and hitches rides to work with friends. It doesn’t help that he makes quite a bit of money, but is broke a few days after pay day, always making excuses and blaming his lack of money on others. When he starts acting weird and asking questions that make little sense, I try hard to remember that he IS my father and not some strange man on the street. But it’s hard. We have little to talk about, and he still feels very foreign to me.
Watching HOB’s “The Wire” has made me a bit hopeful for my dad. Watching Bubbles, a drug addicted homeless man, fight his way back from addiction to some semblance of a normal life gives me hope. My dad isn’t that far-gone (right?). He still goes to work, he still mentors kids, still plays grandpa on holidays, but he also still uses drugs. Although the show a work of fiction, it is still grounded in truth. If Bubbles can fight his way back from the brink, I feel my father can piece himself back together again.
My father is not a bad man, he is in pain. And pain causes you to do things you may have never imagined. The dad I once knew is still there, waiting to come out again. I just hope it happens before it’s too late, and I don’t even have the memories of him to hold onto anymore.