Enter the Darkness
Tenth grade proved to be one of the best years of my life. I made more friends than I had ever had before and was really starting to feel like I belonged. Everything was about to change dramatically for the worse.
As summer vacation wound down in 1979, at the beginning of band practice for the new school year, my father had a heart attack. He was 44 at the time. I wasn’t home when it happened. I was sleeping over at a friend’s house. My mother didn’t call me or send for me. I got up casually and when I got home she told me what had happened. I was terrified about what was going to happen next.
We went to the hospital to see my dad and to my relief, he didn’t look any different than before. He explained that during the night he couldn’t sleep because he had such burning in his chest and by the morning it was still there so he thought he should go to the hospital. I don’t remember how he got there, by ambulance or by car. I just remember crying a lot and being terrified of losing him.
My dad spent a month in the hospital. He was 2 weeks in one place and when he was about to be discharged he was still having chest pain on the stairs so they sent him to another hospital for more tests and a cardiac catheterization. I was terrified all over again because I thought he was coming home. When we went to see him at the other hospital, I could see the fear on his face and he broke down and cried. I had never seen my dad cry in all my life and it nearly brought me to hysterics. I had a very bad feeling in my gut about this whole affair. The cardiac catheterization showed that there were 3 arteries with blockages. In 1979, the treatment for heart disease was more conservative. They tried to treat things medically before opting for surgery. They put my dad on medicine and finally he was pain free and they sent him home with orders to be seen frequently for reevaluation.
After this scare, life went on, but it was not the same. Our house was very tense and nervous and filled with worry. I began to withdraw from my friends and one of my best friends suddenly wouldn’t talk to me and I was convinced I did something wrong because she wouldn’t tell me why she wouldn’t talk to me. This just reinforced my withdrawal. I figured nobody liked me so why should I like anybody at all? My old habit of putting up walls returned and I slowly walled myself off to protect my heart, which of course promoted depression.
A couple of months after the heart attack, my dad flipped out the one evening. He and my mom started arguing about nothing and he just lost his mind, screaming and ranting and raving. He tore the phone out of the wall and stormed around the house. He threw a large book at my mom and then I lost it and went after him, screaming obscenities at him in defense of my mom. He then turned around and kicked me in the stomach before storming out the front door. He then took off in his truck and slammed into the car in front of and behind him to get away. I was left feeling completely dumbstruck.
He didn’t come back for several days. It was awful. He was my hero, the one I loved best, the one who didn’t yell at me when I made mistakes. When he finally came home, he wouldn’t speak to us at all. He was completely silent. He was so different from the man I knew. I just got more angry as the days and weeks passed. How could he treat us this way? What did we do to deserve this? He wouldn’t even talk to my sister who was just 5 years old. I was so angry I couldn’t talk to anyone and I believe it was at this time I was convinced that everybody hated me so I walled myself up.
My dad’s silence lasted several weeks and then one day I went home and it was as if nothing had ever happened. He was himself again without explanation. I asked my mom what happened and she told me she apologized to him because he said we owed him an apology. I got even madder because we didn’t do anything wrong! So while he went back to normal, I continued my silent treatment toward him. I never brought it up again. Slowly as the weeks passed I started to speak to him again, but I never looked at him the same.
The days of fun and innocence were coming quickly to an end. Life was getting more complicated and dramatic by the minute.