“See ya, Pops"

Patrick Gabrion
Father and son

Another Father’s Day is fast approaching.
For me, it is not so much an occasion for celebrating, but more a time for reflection.

Most of all, I choose to focus on the good times spent with my wife and kids. The vacations, to numerous places throughout our beloved Maine and beyond. The various school functions, like sporting events and play performances. Even the simple things in life, such as meals together, going for walks, watching movies, exploring the woods, and the like. 

Father and son

There also are thoughts of a more serious nature — mainly in the form of questions. Did I do enough as a dad for my two children? Could I have done a better job? If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, what would I change?

When my wife and I became parents, our children’s futures seemed full of possibility — of course, we’d have our share of struggles, but we were sure that our love and support would help them achieve their hopes and dreams.

But, now, looking back, I realize some things are beyond one’s control.

Father and son

With the growing evidence of my son’s mental health problems, we soon learned how such a diagnosis encompasses the entire family. His daily struggles took precedence over everything else. Whether we liked it or not, it could not be ignored. We struggled to maintain some semblance of normalcy, if only for the sake of our other child.

Over the years, there were countless appointments with doctors and specialists, who offered differing diagnoses, and treatments that seemed to create additional problems, yet with little relief of his symptoms. Even hospitalizations, with promising words for outpatient services that never materialized — our life was a constant search for answers. 

Father and son

Watching him spiral downward, despite our desperate attempts to save him, was unbearable.

As he turned to alcohol and drugs more and more in order to cope, there were moments of genuine terror, such as when he brought kerosene into the house and threatened to start a fire. Or when he was out of control, proclaiming his ability to take on law enforcement officers — in the moment, unable to grasp what those consequences would entail.

Life dealt my son a horrible hand, through no fault of his own.

This will be my sixth Father’s Day without my dear son. His addictions took him away from us, but I’m grateful that he is no longer suffering. It goes without saying, I miss him every single day.

Father and son

In our final time seeing each other, just prior to his death, as he hopped out of my car, he turned and said, “See ya, Pops.”

We were just days away from taking a father-and-son journey to Acadia National Park, his favorite place in the whole world. That’s another moment I choose to reflect on, imagining what a grand time we would have had together.

Father and son

Patrick Gabrion is a writer and cyclist living in Maine.
Originally from Michigan, he was a dedicated journalist, retiring after more than five decades in the industry. These days, Patrick documents his love of cycling through his blog, Pedal2Page, and spends time with his wife, Vicky, and their terrier, Dudley.

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