I miss my dad. It has been 11 years since he passed away and life has not gotten any easier. Some part of me has not been able to let go. We had a complicated relationship. He was a single parent and I am the youngest. The older kids put him through everything imaginable. Dad also fought his own battles with depression, alcohol, PTSD and pills.

There is a decade between the older kids and myself. I was raised as an only child because they went out into the world to discover their own paths. Those paths never took away the hurt they carried with them from childhood. Dad was my parent, first and foremost. I never forgot that. But he was also my best friend and closest confidant. He knew more about my life than most teens would ever want their parents to ever know.

Dad stressed communication. Where are you going? Who will you be with? What time will you be home? Why are you going there? Will there be an adult? That communication went both ways. On the rare occasions he was not home after school, there was a note on the table waiting for me. The note told me where he was, what he was doing and when he would be home. All of his clinic appointments were written on the family calendar, yet he still left me a note each time. Once, when I was 17, I woke up around midnight. My head was spinning and something felt wrong. I started to panic. The panic hit me so fast, I was not able to make it to the bathroom. I vomited on the hallway floor outside my bedroom door.

I started calling for my dad. The kitchen lights were dim, so I thought he was sleeping in his recliner in the living room. After no response, I pulled myself to my feet, went to the bathroom and cleaned my self up. Then I walked towards the kitchen-stepping over the vomit on the carpet. Dad was not in his wheelchair at the kitchen table. As I stepped into the completely dark living room, I seen he was not in his recliner either. Nor was he sitting in the computer desk chair. The feeling of anxiety slammed into me. I started shaking and just knew something was wrong. I told myself that he must have gone to bed. On extremely rare occasions dad would sleep in his room. Back down the puke-hallway towards his bedroom. No dad. His room was empty and the bed untouched. Panic grabbed my insides and twisted. My head was splitting with pain.

Running down the hallway now, ignoring the vomit, yelling for him. No answer. Sweat was beading on my forehead. His wheelchair was still at the kitchen table. No note was left. His sticks were gone! Dad used forearm crutches when he walked. They have a cuff that circles each arm and handles to grip as a person walks. He called them his sticks. I unlocked the front door, threw it open and ran outside in my T-shirt. His truck was gone. Back inside. I looked for a note on the table, but didn’t find one. His wallet and cell phone were not on the table either. I tried calling his cell phone at least 10 times. I left voicemails. I was crying hysterically.

Dad finally called me back. I snatched up the phone, “Where are you!? What happened?” I was livid. He said he was having coffee with a friend. I had been sleeping and he didn’t want to wake me. My immediate response “and you couldn’t leave a note?! Anything could have happened and I have no idea where you are. I woke up to a dark house and you gone and not a single word.” I was yelling at him and crying at the same time. I told him I had gotten sick and needed him to come home. One minute I sounded like a scared child, the next I sounded like a scared parent.

I sat in his wheelchair at the kitchen table in the dark waiting for him to come home. Then I slept on the couch in the living room just to make sure he didn’t disappear again. He was sleeping in his wheelchair at the kitchen table when I woke up the next morning. I skipped school and spent the day on the couch watching him.

I know this sounds odd to most people. He was the parent, and I was the child. We were co-dependent on each other. He had raised me on his own. I did not know my mother. Over the years, certain family members had threatened to take me away from dad and put me in foster care. He was a recluse. Sometimes he would stay inside for six months at a time without ever setting foot outside. Dad had sleep apnea and narcolepsy. This means he would randomly stop breathing in his sleep. He would also just randomly fall asleep without warning, including while driving. Dad was suicidal. He had tried to kill himself too many times to count. Dad told me that when he finally did it, that it would not be at home for me to find his body. He would not tell me about it, instead, he would just take off and go finish it. Dad also had cancer and a heart problem. Walking from the driveway into the house was enough to trigger chest pains and breathing problems, often times requiring him to reach for his heart pills. He had already had several heart attacks and one stroke.

The events of this night will haunt me for the rest of my life. Even now, I am writing with tears in my eyes at the memory. I thought I had lost him. I was afraid he was never coming back. This night showed him how scared I was to lose him. He felt terrible for scaring me like he did. He never forgot to leave me a note again.

Now, 11 years later, I still find myself looking at the table for a note from him. Wanting to know when he will be back and where he went. Words cannot describe how low I feel, how lost I feel. There will never be a note waiting for me again. I can honestly say that I have not felt truly safe since the day he died. My world was destroyed. I miss him so much. I wish I could call him. Yell at him for scaring me and tell him to come home where he belongs. But I can’t.