I was 19-years-old and working the night shift at a TGIFriday’s. By day, I worked doing data entry at a data storage facility. I didn’t have a car, so I had to bum rides to get to and from work. Usually my step-dad picked me up after a night shift, which I always dreaded. The car rides were long and silent. We had nothing in common. Nothing to say to each other; not that either of us were particularly talkative to begin with. We loved each other in a begrudging, obligatory type of way, but we typically tried to stay out of each other’s way whenever possible.
This particular night at work had been terrible. My customers were all a bunch of assholes who tipped like shit, which was partially on them, but somewhat on me because I was a terrible waitress if I’m being honest. I sat outside of the restaurant, and when my step-dad pulled up, I got in the car, bracing myself for the awkward, silent, fifteen minute ride home.
I slid into the passenger seat and we exchanged obligatory greetings, which sounded more like grunts. He reached over and turned up the radio. I turned to stare out the window, imagining I was somewhere (anywhere) else, which was my ultimate goal, and the reason I had dropped out of college to work two jobs.
Low by Cracker came on the stereo. I started to do a subtle dance in my seat. I continued to stare out the window and started to hum along with the song. The chorus started, and I suddenly heard my step-dad start singing, “To be with you, girl, like being low. Hey, hey, hey, like being stoned.” This was something so completely out of character for him, that I should have been shocked into silence. Instead, I started singing along. And we sang the song together until it ended.
We finished the drive in silence. I jumped out of the car the second we came to a stop and said, “Thanks for the ride.” I immediately locked myself in my bedroom and cried for the normal relationship with a father that I had just glimpsed, but would never actually have.
Regardless, it is the best memory I have of my step-father.
Fast forward thirteen years. I’d barely seen or spoken to him during that time. Just a month after the incident described above, we had a huge falling out that ended with his arrest. I left home and never looked back. In March 2012, my family called and said, “He’s dying. If you want to see him then you should come now.” I was conflicted. I didn’t want to go. There was a deep seated hatred in the core of my being that I didn’t know what to do with. I didn’t know that I wanted to rush to his death bed. I didn’t know that he deserved my forgiveness. But then I remembered the time we sang Low together in the car. And it was the powerful force of that memory that pushed me to do what I did next: rush to his side, grasp his hand and say, “I love you.” To which he replied, “I love you, too.”
And that was the last time I ever spoke to him. He died the next day.