Most nights Lily would leave the bedroom window open and I’d look up to it in the mornings when I let the dog out. I’d look up to her window and consider her inside, Christmas lights on the ceiling, glimpses of her bedroom posters and things. And reflect on what it meant to be the father of two teenaged girls, both of them struggling in their own ways—all of us struggling—not sure what else we could do. And then I’d call the dog inside and start my day.
It’s hard to reconcile what was really going on in hindsight. It’s like one of those films with a twist at the end that forces you to see everything differently from the start. That cracked window was like a glimpse into her world, and how little I could see from my vantage below. Leaving the windows open no matter the season, the Christmas lights on 24/7, that was a byproduct of the pandemic. How we all let go of our better senses and lost sight of what we knew to be true.
There is a certain amount of teenage meandering that’s a normal, necessary thing, and then there is the wandering through the dark corners of the soul, the internet, where one can get damaged beyond repair. And one can meander for so long at such a distance they lose track of where they started, and the original self falls out of view.
Many nights I’d step outside the front door and smell cannabis coming from somewhere, either the neighbors across the road or the ones up the hill. Cannabis had become so normalized it was often flavoring the air. And I was just as guilty myself, getting high as a psychic numbing, to separate myself from the gloom of the pandemic and treat the sadness I felt but couldn’t name. It was a treat I deserved for reasons I couldn’t articulate or defend.
The THC was a bridge to help me stop drinking, but it was a bridge I stood on alone. And like most bad habits it became a secret, my own private world. So to confront Lily when I thought she might be getting high was problematic, because we hadn’t been clear on consequences—and for me it would force a reckoning of my own habit or to quit, which I wasn’t ready to do.
In January I decided to take a break and was surprised at how easy it was to stop. My sober friends remark on how much perspective they get looking back at their former selves and it’s true, and refreshing. And it was good timing because Lily hit a breaking point and we had to get her more help.
Now we are all supporting Lily through her healing process, in going back to understand the cause of all her pain. And it has a ripple out effect that extends to me and Dawn and how we were raised, how our actions affected her.
There is so much embedded in the past and the ugliest parts get buried but still hold sway over our lives. It takes courage and loving support but we need to go back and hold these things we’ve hidden away before we can make peace with them. Otherwise they will govern our lives from their place in the dark, and destroy us.
Dawn says it feels like we are all beginning to awaken from a spell we’ve been under for the past couple years now. It’s finally forecast to get warm here in the northwest and the sky is now dotted with clouds, their undersides pink with the first morning light. I will fill my lungs with cool air and clear my head of last night’s sleep and with it, start a new day.
There is only so much time we can spend looking back before it’s time to start looking ahead once more.