What If You Can’t Save The Person Who Saved You

storytelling

“Do you know what it’s like to be 57 and starting over?”

My stepdad lost his job. But it’s more complicated than that – he lost his job, then fought really hard to get a new appointment. When he didn’t get the appointment, for various political reasons – it was devastating for all of us. It was like losing his job all over again.

And he is such a good man. Such a loving, kind, honest, humble, decent human.

When I was home for Christmas this year, we stopped by Wal-mart one night. A 14-year-old girl approached him in the parking lot and gave him a huge hug and told him how much his involvement in her life had meant to her (before he lost his job). She had been a participant in the drug court he had started on his own time working on weekends, fighting impossible bureaucratic and financial battles, inspiring his team to spend their own money to travel to attend training … I could go on. There are so many stories of my stepdad tirelessly, quietly working on behalf of his community.

Once at a fundraiser, he was parking cars. One person asked him if he did anything else besides park cars: “Yeah. I’m a judge.”

He was continuously finding solutions to keep families together, keep kids out of jail.

He loved his job, and he was good at it.

Worst of all – the batshit crazy guy who cost him his job was himself removed from office soon afterwards for pulling out a gun in the courtroom.

It’s hard for me to make sense of this. It hits me in a place in my gut that’s raw – where injustice lives.

I feel like everything I write comes from this place.

It’s full of rage.

And fear –

And sadness –

And helplessness –

I feel like the people who get ahead are the ones who cheat. Who connive. Who manipulate. And my stepdad is just not that guy. He’s just an honest, straight-shooter – a real salt of the earth person – probably too honest for some – with a salty wit that sometimes rubs people the wrong way, especially in rural Georgia where some people have real sticks up their asses but the vast majority don’t and are about the coolest, funniest, most wonderful people you’ll ever meet –

And I love him so much it hurts. Like, it’s painful to love someone this much. Because what if I lose him? I have way too many eggs in this one basket. I’ve got it all riding on black 21.

My stepdad saved my life when I was a child. While my real father was manipulative and cruel, distant, empty and selfish, my stepdad was nurturing, loving and attached. He has always believed in and supported my artistic ambitions.

There was a moment when I was at home at my parents’ log cabin in rural Georgia and I had just seen a novelist I went to college with on the Today Show. And it was upsetting for me. I walked out onto the front porch, where my stepdad was having a cigarette with the dogs looking out over the foggy morning woods. I told him what happened and how it made me feel and I started crying. I said “why do you keep believing in me?”

He said “Are you kidding? I’m just doing this for my Ferarri.” And that made me laugh and love him so much. And I hugged him.

And now hearing him sound so down – his voice sound so on edge – I wish I could do the same for him. But I don’t know how I can. It makes me feel so trapped that I can’t.

I sat in my car just now – parked in my carport – tears streaming down my cheeks – ┬áhearing him say the words above – and said – “I wish I could rescue you.”