Tricky Question, Tricky Misconception

Bryce Wilson

I went on a date a while ago. With a beautiful girl. Now, obviously, whenever you go on a date, you’re supposed to open up a little, talk about what you do for work, what you’re studying in school, what you hope to be a few years from now. You get the picture. So, this girl was great, she was super easy to talk to; she wasn't scared off when I said that I was hoping to be a video editor in LA when I grow up. So I’m thinking this is going well, right? Wrong.

We got to the part of the date where you talk about your family. Don’t get me wrong—I love my family. I am such a family guy. My three older siblings are great: I have an awesome older sister who is a teacher and married with three children, a brother who is a director at a homeless shelter downtown, and another brother who is in grad school in Seattle so he can get his doctorate degree in Nuclear engineering.

“What about your parents? What are they like?”

There is the tricky question. I always start by talking about my mom because she is the most amazing woman in the world. She works at the University as a grad student advisor in the Metallurgical engineering department. I make sure to throw in that last part because it can distract from asking about my dad.

“What’s meta… engineering?”

It is the process of getting minerals from rocks at mines. They have a great program at the U because of Kennecott. But, low and behold, I got caught because I talked my mom up as a wonderful woman. So why is my mom so great? Because she raised me and my three older siblings on her own. No, I don’t like talking about my dad and his death, but that question always follows. “How did your dad die?”

Does anyone here know how annoying that question is? Like, is it essential to your core being that you know on our first date how the guy who is genetically inclined to love me more than anyone else in the world died? I mean, if my dad were a war hero, trust me I’d brag about it, especially living in a state like Utah. But no, and it wasn’t any other heroic act of stopping a mugging in a back alley or saving a kid from drowning in a river, and he didn’t quite have the strength to save himself. No, not cancer either. He wasn’t a smoker or a drinker. It wasn’t some freak car accident or any other accident for that matter. It wasn’t a murder where he was mistaken for someone else.

It was something I don’t like to talk about. My father’s way of death is the absolute taboo of death. The so-called “coward’s way out.” This, in my eyes, is just about the most fucked-up thing to say about a person who ended their life. You didn’t read my dad’s last note. Only seven people have read those four pages, so please do not say that my father was a coward when you don’t understand what was going on.

Holy shit, I am so fed up about this that fourteen years later I am defending my dad. No, you can’t defend suicide; at the end of the day, that person made a permanent choice to a temporary problem that felt like an eternity—so yes, there was a .45 millimeter that looked like a solution and took less than half of a second to release the consciousness into nothingness.

How am I supposed to tell someone this? Can’t I just lie? “Well, Bryce, you don’t need to be ashamed of your father…” some will say. Well, I am. While my friends have their dads teaching them how to work on a car, while my cousins have theirs coaching them in basketball, while my siblings at least have memories of some of these—Christ, I was five. My mom literally tells me every year that I am the only good thing that comes out of August because thirteen days after my fifth birthday, I would be half an orphan. So every time I see a dad driving his kids to school, or yelling at them for not mowing the lawn, or playing with them at the pool, I get so jealous. What I would do to have my father yell at me. ‘Cause frankly, I don’t remember the sound of his voice. We watch home videos, I see a stranger. Maybe to remember will make me stronger. I’m not seeing it though.

What’s wrong with me? I don’t know how to feel—should I be angry, sad, normal, helpless? Because honestly, I wish I could feel less. I have this emptiness in my chest, and it’s because my heart was torn out before I knew how to use it, so maybe this feeling is really just me healing.

Dear God, yes God almighty, please tell me my father is in hell for abandoning my family. For making my mother give up on intimate love. For giving me separation anxiety, both of my brothers’ anger issues and my sister what some call daddy issues or what my family calls post-traumatic stress.

Dear God, yes God almighty, please tell me my father is in heaven so that one day I can meet him again. Yeah, I hate him with every ounce of my soul, but I still miss him. He is half of my existence after all, and I do believe that someday I will forgive him. I just know it isn’t right now. Perhaps if I could speak with him for a minute just to see what he has to say? No, I don’t owe him anything, but I am willing to listen to anyone's plea.

Dear Dad, I don’t think you know how many birthday wishes I wasted on you in hopes that you would come walking into my life again. Maybe my twentieth birthday will be the charm. I’ll probably be wishing for something else this year.

So, yea, that’s kind of a wrap on my fam. They’re cool. I love them to death for what we have gone through together and what we deal with every single day. My fam is strong. Especially my mom. She is the greatest woman in the world because she raised four children on her own without a college degree. With all of the adversity, she never gave up on me or my family, so for that I am eternally grateful. Shouts out to my sis with her beautiful three children and amazing husband who recently came back from overseas. Those kids have the life of my dreams. My brothers are leading the march in changing the world, and I promise you I am close behind. My fam is great.

Anyway, back on the note of this date I went on: she asked about my dad. No, I wasn’t mad because I have gotten used to the fact that if you tell someone your dad died when you were five, they’re gonna ask how.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, how did he pass?”

“His heart shutdown, no one really knew why. What’s your favorite color?”