Dads, pelicans & the people who pull you through

When walking trainwrecks like myself suddenly emerge from the decades of chaos looking like normal human beings, it’s no small thing. I would love to say that I pulled myself up from own bootstraps. Sadly, I cannot. The truth is, as attractive as they sound, I’ve never owned boots with straps. But the real truth is it took a thousand hands to pull me back up.  My dad and my grandfather were two of the dozens of people who did just that.

To really know this situation and where I’m coming from I better explain myself. I was prompted to spill this out on the page because of Father’s Day and the 15th anniversary of my grandfather’s death which is on the 18th. I know, I know. I’ve only been sober for 3 and a half years so how in the hell could my grandfather have helped me?  Believe it or not, it was his spirit and life example that really kept me going. Back in 2009, it had been 12 years since he died. I never really gotten over it and numbing myself with drugs and alcohol for years had insured that I never would. So naturally when I got sober all of that stuff I never dealt with was just siting there saying, “Helloooo! Remember us?” like little orphans I’d given up, now back to live with me forever.

On the anniversary of his death, I was walking around Marina Del Rey and looking at the water. I talked to my mom earlier on the phone and she reminded me what day it was and she said my grandfather would be so proud of me. Naturally, at five months sober this made me burst into tears but so did that ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan and poems about Paul Cezanne. My grandpa died of a heart attack while fishing with one of his best friends so being by the water and watching pelicans grab fish out of the ocean was the perfect place for me to be on that day. I remember feeling the breeze and praying to him, whispering “thank you” then “please help me” followed by “I love you.” My grandfather was as close to a saint as one could get so I knew if anybody could hear this messge-chant-prayer, it was him. Ironically (or not), it was my grandfather who helped my dad get sober and get to AA. Like I said, even if he wasn’t alive I was  absolutely talking to the right guy.

My dad, the police officer for 25 years, pulled me through in a way that was only he could. With less than 90 days sober, he impressed upon me that I was going to be screwed if I didn’t change everything about my life. He didn’t do it subtly or with kid gloves and he seriously annoyed me. But I received the message. This was a guy, after all, who had to get sober while in a highly stressful job on the police force while raising four kids. He knew what he was talking about. further  on in my journey, my dad was a total rock. I didn’t know what to do when I found out that I was HIV positive and my dad said, “Don’t worry. We’re going to make sure you’ll be okay” even though he himself was worried and saddened by the news. Part of his job for so many years on the force was saving lives. I can tell you firsthand, he’s really good at it.

Later that year, I took a marine biology class and learned something about the pelican I watched that teary day on the pier. The California Brown Pelican was nearly wiped because of ingesting poisonous chemicals but thanks to thousands of concerned people, he had come back. Now, the pelican is thriving with numbers  near 750,000. This bounce back from near extinction was something I totally related to. I guess the pelican-filled memory laden point I’m trying to make is just this: thank you Dad, grandpa Bob, and everybody else who in some way shape or form said, “You are going to be okay.” You were right. And I couldn’t do any of this without you.

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