Loss of Signal

I wish my dad’s house had been filled with guitars and books like mine is. I wish my zero and I were closer. But they say, the first seventeen years form the lifetime bond between a parent and their kid. Mine was clipped with him about five years prematurely. My dad’s house was filled with guns and alcohol and a haunting sense of dread or anger just below the modern architecture of his new mansion on a hill.

My zero is struggling with something unknown. A touch of the ocd and a sliver of depression and we’re off to the races. He has landed and expanded a new fetish with firearms. Oddly, the military gear as well. But, wait, his long-term game was a 5-v-5 shooter called Team Fortress 2. So, in some ways, his stressed college mind has regressed into a real-world version of TF2.

We’re spending time together. That’s huge. And at this moment, typing, I am sipping on a short pour of cristalino tequila as the landry tumbles in the dryer, slapping wollen dryer balls with a soft drumming. He, I think, is in the “music room” crashed out. Hard to tell, though. He leaves the light on and falls asleep at random times. So, at the moment, his light shows under the door, but he maybe asleep or tapping on his laptop just like I am, 25 feet away.

The last time I spent in my father’s house, was during a Spring Break in my sophomore year in high school. I was in prep school up in Maine, and my mom had sold the family home, so I went home to visit my dad. My mom had an apartment in New York City, where she had joined my older sister as artist in residence in the most vibrant and violent city in the world. I traveled home to stay in my father’s amazing new house.

He worked during the day, and his wife, SAM was always just away. Not sure where she would go, but the “boyfriend” Rod was probably involved. I was home, or at my dad’s, for a week. My high school friends had a different schedule, so they were all in school while I was home. I made arrangements with the University of Texas to come swim in the aquatics center, since I was now a serious swimmer in Maine.

It was a weird and stressful moment made even more horrifying when on day two I crashed my father’s spare pickup truck. It was 100% not my fault. A flatbed hauling lumber for all the damn houses being built near the lake was hauling ass down the narrow roads near Westlake Beach, and as I came barreling around in the other direction, the truck spanned the entire curve. My dad’s old truck slid right under the bed of the freighter, and crushed the hood and began venting steam. FK.

What happened next was pretty amazing. I got a ride back to the house and called him at his office to tell him the news. He was cool about it. My dad, the guy who exploded with the slightest provocation, was chill about me disabling his truck? “I guess you’ll need to learn how to drive stick, then,” he said. “The Jeep is available.”

I had been so terrified about telling him, I missed his honorable effort at being a great dad. That Spring Break I learned to drive a standard transmission on the same old yellow Jeep my brother had almost been murdered over, after he had forgotten to unlock “the hubs” before following the family car home from Port Aransas. We all thought my dad was going to kill his oldest son. I’m sure I was PTSDing all over the place thinking of telling him of the wrecked Jeep. And then… Nothing. He was cool.

The Jeep sort of drove with a crablike tilt to it, due to one of the times my brother rolled it. He took more damage than the old Jeep. Still, I had a ride. I made it one more time to the swim center, struggling a bit in the hills with new clutch/break combo moves. And then I started smoking dope. I guess it was just depression asking to be regulated and transformed. But we know, it only numbs the pain or anxiety. And if you get too high, it flips around and turns those fears into little black bastards that haunt you and hunt you down. My dad was getting drunk every night to the point of slurry shouts of rage that I could hear in my step-sister’s bedroom a floor up.

Every.

Night.

Incomprehensible and blotto.

I joined with some weed-med of my own. It was a vicious combo. Loneliness. Weed. Friends in school. Isolation from the top of the hill with a breathtaking view of downtown Austin across the lake. Heaven and hell in the same moment. Watching my father implode slowly and painfully with alcohol, stress, and a toxic new wife.

I was seeing it happen before my very eyes. Sort of like the truck wreck, as it slowed down to cinematic slo-mo. I watched and heard my father killing himself every night in his big beautiful house with his beautiful boy moment happening, but in reverse. I wanted to save my dad. I wanted to help. I knew I was afraid and powerless to do anything. I wouldn’t learn about Adult Children of Alcoholics for another few years. I had nothing, no one, and some weed.

I tried to pretend I was a rockstar just hanging by the pool during the day. I tried drinking but nothing tasted good. I had the place to myself. I got some halfassed commitment from my high school buddies to come over and party after school, but it never happened. I was listening to Rick Derringer’s Sittin By the Pool on repeat, except I *was* the music video. My life. My moment in rockstar hell on a repeating loop for the rest of the week.

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