**Trigger Warning: Depiction of Suicide**

Hi, I’m Nick.

I’ve tried multiple times to scour my mind and identify a memory of my father where we were both happy at the same time. It’s safe to say that one doesn’t exist; not in my memory, not in any photo album, nowhere in the Universe.

The concept is a ghost.

Growing up, any mention of art, any male friendship, any weakness of any kind, any emotion, any idea outside of the most superficial thought… I’d roll my eyes and go back to getting lost in my mind for the sake of not having to listen to him scream because we were lost, or because the drive-thru window girl didn’t respond to his flirting, or because black people simply existed. To be frank, we were never aligned energetically, and I spent many years telling people that my father had passed away…even though he wouldn’t for almost two decades.

When we found out he was hanging in the garage, I wasn’t sure how to feel, or act, or think. I was more concerned about how my Mom and Sister were doing. My brother in law. They all loved him deeply, despite his flaws. I showed up and remember being more upset at the police for not letting me stand there and look at it than I was with him for doing it. I can’t explain why I wanted to, but something about looking at him made me feel whole for the first time in…well…ever.

I didn’t cry that day. Or the next. Or at his funeral. Or at the grave when I went to see it for the first time a year later. I guess I never felt like he deserved the tears.

Well, something changed the day that I met the woman that would eventually become my wife. I knew that I had old bones that needed to be dusted off if I was ever going to grow into someone that was deserving of a truly loving relationship with another human being. I had walls that were up, and strong. I had doubts about my ability to be a good communicator, because my father wasn’t, and I had his blood. He was an angry mess, so I must also be, right?

Soon after that day, I went back to that grave, and as I stood there, I remembered that he was just a guy; and I was just a guy. I have things that I’ve done that I’ve spent decades reconciling in my heart and mind, and I’m sure he did too, regardless of whether he ever did the same reconciliation or not. I forgave him that day as I pulled the grass from around his headstone. He couldn’t hear me, but I told him that I had fallen in love and that I was sorry for the life that we never had together. I was sure that it meant something.

The fear of saying the words, “I forgive you” had kept me bound by the negativity that I associated with him. It made me feel like saying them would validate the way he treated me for those many years. As it often seems to be, though, I was wrong. Finding the courage to say them left my heart feeling lighter, and my mind calm. I walked away from that moment a different person than I was when I arrived, and I deserved it. The time had come to stop blaming him for my hardships and short comings. I was finally able to look at my life and say to myself: “you can do better than this, Nick.” – and since that day… I have.

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