An Orphan’s Life
She took him in and cared for him for a while, but eventually she had to hand him off to another family member. Over the years, he was passed around to just about everyone. Some were incredibly kind; some merely tolerated him. For one short stint he stayed with a California aunt and uncle. The alchoholic uncle got drunk one night and attempted sexual abuse – a common occurrence – with the now seven year old. The orphan tried to protect himself and a shoved the man; he fell and smashed his head on the corner of a metal coffee table.
The head injury was fatal.
The orphan was then sent back to the East Coast to live with his grandparents, Ma and Pop, whom he lived with through high school. They were kind and good to him.
When the boy was seventeen, he met his mother for the first time. She’d gotten her act together and was sober. She told him who his daddy was; a man who’d moved on, married another woman and had his own family. The youngster contacted his father, but little to no relationship followed.
The boy went to college, where he met his future wife. He worked hard to pay for school while studying art and theater, but lack of funds kept him from graduating. A promising potential…lost.
After his (then) girlfriend earned her degree, they married and started a family. A girl first. A boy two years later.
Years of debilitating anxiety and depression scarred their marriage, but the final blow was when he admitted homosexual curiosity. Divorce quickly followed, ending their fourteen years together.
He lived alone after that. Tiny apartments. Little jobs. Just enough to stay afloat. A broken man who never had much confidence to begin with…now with even less. Content with mediocrity. Some called him a simple, humble man. Others called him a loser.
He saw his kids every other weekend. Took them camping. Taught them to fish. Played board games and took them to movies. He tried to be a good dad, although not everyone in his family thought he tried hard enough to keep up with child support.
Decades of heavy smoking did a number on his lungs. Pneumonia was a yearly occurrence, usually followed by a bout of depression. He dated a little. Even had a few “roommates”, but never remarried. As the years rolled on, he became less social. Aside from a few pets, low self-esteem and raging insecurity were his only companions.
During his fifties, the reclusiveness worsened. The two people he’d grown close to over the years – his biological mother and his grandfather, Pop – both had passed away, leaving him with no family except his children.
But alone was a concept he was used to. In fact, he seemed to prefer it that way.
Daily medication for anxiety and depression helped him remain functional, but as entered his sixties, the isolation intensified. Trips to the grocery store and bank were among his few outings in a week. He spoke to no one, aside from occasional phone calls from his children, or an email from an old work friend. Chain smoking and lack of housekeeping kept visitors away. Even his children arranged hotel rooms when visiting, and eventually refused to enter his home at all.
Now in his seventies, he’s a true hermit. Although he remains very close with his daughter, he and his son haven’t spoken in over a decade for reasons still shrouded in scandal and mystery. Emphysema plagues him, and keeps him incapable of the simplest of tasks. He can barely walk to his car without losing his breath completely. His house is in a state of disarray, bursting with junk collected over the years. The dog-piss-caked carpets and cig stench would turn your stomach….but he doesn’t notice. Years of smoking have rendered his nose useless.
He’s out of money, living on social security and a measly income from eBay sales that barely gets him by from month-to-month. He’s lonely; depressed.
An entire lifetime spent fighting depression. Trapped by anxiety. A lifetime without a sense of belonging or family roots. An existence oozing insecurity and self-doubt.
A life wasted. One that could’ve been so much fuller, if only…
You may consider this man’s life story sad. Tragic. It may break your heart. Or make you shake your head in disgust at his current living conditions.
That’s okay. I do too.
He’s my dad.