Father, can I call you Dad?
I owe you a few apologies. I know you don’t want them. I know you don’t need them. But my soul will burn like it has the last few weeks if I don’t get this out. Please just let me say this, and I can go on with my life. I can try to live without you.
So when I was in college, after my second semester, me and Burg we went up to Milwaukee to scare the shit out of Char. See, back then I thought Less was worth protecting. I was walking my friend into a situation that I couldn’t predict. I had to have help. I needed to be able to get him out of there if the worst happened.
I went to Wrath. The name is great, huh? I know you love that name. Anyway, I went to Wrath. I walked into his house and he knew by my face I was there for business. He sat down, offered me a soda I didn’t take, and asked why I was there. This right here is how it went.
“I’m going to see Char.”
“Hopefully to whip his ass.”
“Yeah, fuck that guy. Listen, I am not sure if he has a crew.”
“He might have a group of friends.”
Wrath laughed. “Char doesn’t have any guy friends. He is incapable of guy friends. The guy is a pussy.”
“Can’t chance it.”
“You don’t have to worry about this. Guaranteed.”
“Look, I do have a friend, and he is coming with me. I am not going to walk him into a situation that I can’t walk him out of.”
“Knew you would.”
“What do you need?” Wrath said. “I can’t come with you.”
“I need insurance. I need to be able to make a call and—”
He laughed. A high bark of a laugh. “You came for Bramble’s number. Shit, that is why you are here.”
“Do you think he would do it? Be there if I need him?”
He leaned in and looked me in the eye. “Listen, kid. Bramble would go anywhere and be anywhere if you needed him. He would never let you down. You can count on that.” He leaned back. “You can take that to the bank.” He grabbed a scrap of paper. And jotted down your number. “You get into any trouble at all, you call that number. Poof, your trouble goes away. Doesn’t matter how many there are. Doesn’t matter what they are carrying. You get in a pinch, you call that number.”
I looked at it and felt warm. I felt you with your arm around me again.
“You should call it anyway. He would love to hear from you.”
But I didn’t call. All weekend I took that number out. All weekend I stared at it. Had it memorized for a while. When I would get upset, for years, I took that number out. Guardian’s War. Do you remember? You probably didn’t hear about it from Wrath, but you know about it now. I had your number in my wallet when Guardian was stumbling down the street in the rain drunk and sobbing. Drunk and howling for justice for those kids. I had that number.
One night he couldn’t take it anymore and he pulled it out in the rain. Within a few seconds, the paper was trash. But we held onto that number in our minds. When everything fell apart. When all of it blew away like dust. We gave that number up. Actively sought to forget it.
Because all of us thought we had let you down. We knew you wouldn’t be proud of us because we failed. So I guess this is two apologies.
I’m sorry for not calling you when I needed you the most. I am even more sorry that I thought you would look down on me for losing that fight. I know now. I know you are proud of me. Guardian can feel that pride when he looks in the mirror.
Guess we’ve got to get to the pool cue, too. I didn’t get it. I didn’t realize what you were giving me. I can still see the splinters of the thing when I hit it against the tree. It shattered into so many pieces. Too many to even count. The only thing you ever gave me was the object that meant so much to you. Within a day I had destroyed it.
Please forgive me. I just didn’t get it.
I got two more, but I can’t bring myself to write them. They are haunting me. They will always haunt me.
I didn’t hug you that day. I wanted to. I wanted to pick you off that couch and bring you to your feet. I wanted to hug you and feel your love for me. I could see it on your face. Slade could see it on your face. But I knew if I put my arms around you I would shatter.
I loved Aunt so much. Losing her was beyond painful. It was soul cracking. I’m still not over it. I can still see her laugh and her smile. If I had put my arms around you, I would have broken into sobs. Some sort of stupid pride made me want for you to see me as more powerful than that. When I broke down at her casket, I just couldn’t hold it together anymore. I prayed for years that you were out of the room when that happened. Now I wish you had been there. If you had, you would have picked me up instead of that deviant Char’s sister. If you had picked me up and held me, I never would have let go.
I can still see the look on your face when you sat in Two Jokers looking at me. I reached a milestone that day. Finally able to drink. I want to go back. I want to be there again. One beer. One shot. One toast with you. Maybe you would have said something to tell me or give me a clue. Maybe not. But at least you would have been able to celebrate a birthday with me.
The one I will never forgive myself for is Grandma’s funeral. I talked to Sly that day. I told him I always wished you were my father and that you and Rose could have worked it out. I asked how you were doing, and he told me you were dying. Total system failure he said.
I told him I was a martial artist. I told him I rode a Harley. I told him I always wanted to be like you. I asked for your number. He gave it freely. Pointed at it and told me to call you.
But I knew I would say those words. Knew I would say that I wished you were my father all my life. And I was afraid that would hurt you. Afraid you would suffer on your death bed with the thought that I wanted you but never had you. I didn’t want that for you. I wanted you to go peacefully.
Three years I walked around with that number. Again, me stained by the number I never called. I could have been there. I could have come to see you. You could have told me. I could have let you call me son. I would have called you father.
So I guess that is what I am doing right now. Telling the story that never happened. Telling the story of a loving father I never knew.
Wherever you are, call me son. I am here calling you father where all can see.
Love your son,