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Her biggest mistake is what’s going to save her life.
Her biggest mistake is what’s going to save her life.
Her biggest mistake is what’s going to save her life.

I keep telling myself this over and over again, as if it’s going to comfort me. Deep down I always knew that something like this was going to happen to her. Ashton has always been my problem child; from the phone calls from her high school head master, the missing vodka bottles from the liquor cabinet, to the day she came home with red eyes and a itchy red spotted rash. She is constantly trying to push the boundaries of life without any concern over the consequences in her decisions. Any time I hear the house phone scream out with its skin stinging ring past six pm, I feel this incomprehensible feeling that floods my insides. It’s a heart-jolting alert, with mystery behind its every plea for me to acknowledge it’s unearthing presence. I ignore it at first. I let it whine for attention, but in the end I always pick up that plastic transmitter of disappointing news. From the time that I pick up that phone to the point where I hang up, I always leave the phone call wishing that I could know a little bit less. The end of the calls were always the trigger of my own self-reassessment. I wander aimlessly looking for something that can give me guidance, reassurance, anything that can make me understand why she acts out. I go to the dusty hardback copies of my old law books that nest on the shelves in the living room; I gaze out of the breakfast room’s large square glass window that over looks Laker Erie. I no longer hear the clanking and clashing of the china plates being put in the dishwasher, or the howls and wrestles of my two springer spaniels as I feel the slight tap of their florescent green ball being pushed against my toes. I take shelter in my impenetrable daydream, watching the boats sail by the coast in the gusty bright afternoons. I watch and I brainstorm. How am I going to get her to understand? Who do I know that still works in the courthouse? The Betty Ford Center has always found success.

As my first born, I will always look at Ashton as giving me my sole purpose of existence. She was born on a bitterly cold afternoon in late February. House lawns were completely veiled with thick frozen mounds of snow. The roads were covered with black ice that would play with your cars, like out of control hot wheels toys. The temperature outside was in the negatives, so cold that I can remember being able to reach out and grasp my breaths. I didn’t care about the numbness I was feeling in my toes or the deep icy feeling that spread throughout my bones, all I wanted to do was meet my baby girl. After six hours of my wife, Carter’s hard work, Ashton was born. I remember the way the nurse was dictating and re-adjusting me as she carefully placed her into my arms, as if she was reluctant of my new fathering abilities. The nurse may have had her reservations about my ability to keep my baby safe, but I wasn’t. The first time I looked into Ashton’s big blue oval eyes, I felt a feeling I had never felt before. I was connected to her, the way I have never felt connected to any other human being. When she looked at me, and grasped her little tiny fingers around my pointer finger, that was it. From that point, she has always had a unidentifiable power over me. It didn’t matter how far she would push me, I never began loving her any less. No matter how much it tore my heart out when she shared all of her terrible and irrational perceptions of me. Or her soul tearing screams of her temper tantrums, even the time she told me that she “hates me”, or when she cried out, “I wished that the cancer had just killed you!” The things that she would do or say didn’t matter because I loved her.

I recognized that she has an adventurous spirit when she was around two years old. We were hosting our annual Memorial Day picnic in the backyard of our old English colonial home. This picnic in particular, I remember, got a bit louder than all of the others we have had, partly because of how much wine was consumed. It was a fairly cool evening, and the sky was just settling into dusk. Carter had spent all afternoon setting up for the picnic because she wanted to make the yard’s ambiance look like a setting she had scene in an image from Southern Living. She hauled the neighbors deteriorating picnic table that was a recipe for splinters, into our yard. She got our fancy linens out, the ones that she only allows us to use for special occasions. She topped off the picnic dinning aesthetics with several candles and pink flowers she had picked from her garden. In light of all of Carter’s hard work toward the picnic, I invited our good friends Betsy and Tom for dinner; mainly so that I could bring more praise to my modest wife’s new talent for staging ambiance.

When we had finished eating dinner we all decided indulge on some after dinner drinks and cigars. I grabbed Ashton from her bouncy contraption that could engage her forever, and placed her small little body in the patch of grass that was in the middle of us and the jungle gym; it was left behind by the previous owners and was sold with the house. It was a simple wooden set, with a traditional set of monkey bars and a side attachment swing. Betsy was in the middle of one of her more ridiculous stories about the time she got stuck at the Detroit airport, which at this point in my life, I have heard so many times I could tell it myself. All of us were having a wonderful time laughing, drinking, and telling stories. I was so distracted by all of it that I let my guard down for only a few minutes, taking my eye off of what Ashton was doing in the yard. The minute I realized my abandonment, I turned around only to see my two and a half year old daughter half way across the top of the monkey bars. My first thought was,  “What if she falls? What if she gets stuck?” I immediately snapped up and out of my seat about to run over to protect her, when Betsy grabbed my hand and stopped me. “don’t spook her, if you panic, she will panic. She got up there all on her own, she can get down all on her own”, she said. Betsy had two kids of her own, both who seemed fairly intelligent and happy, so I listened.  I watched her slowly and systematically crawl down the side bars. I stared at her with a proud Cheshire cat grin,as my little girl quickly understood how to get out of her self-induced situations.

At the time, I imagined that this characteristic would bring her toward a life filled with limitless opportunities. I envisioned her walking across a stage with a dorky square-top hat fastened to her blond thick curls. She swiftly glided with confidence towards her future. I imagined that I would someday be missing her; that she would be off in a unfamiliar country, traveling the world. All of my chalked up illusions of Ashton’s future, my unprecedented confidence in this one small side of her, distracted me from nurturing her more destructive traits. I left them uncared for and unmaintained.  I let that little baby that once clasped my finger with an unbreakable grip, down. I still feel the uncirculated tightness of her grip, the gesture that drove my every decision, which signified her trust in me as her father. Somewhere along the way I lost that trust, and that once innocent bud of adventure, turned into an unruly, tumultuous, weed.

 

***

Ashton’s rebellious behavior only worsened over the years. When she was thirteen I found her drunk had her eighth grade graduation party. When she was fifteen I caught her in the shower with her Canadian, Lax bro, boyfriend. When she was eighteen I had to bail her out of jail because she got caught drinking underage at a house party. Her choices became more dangerous as she got older. When she was junior in college she began dating a trust fund brat, who introduced her to the life of drinking, drugs and carelessness. When she walked through the front door of our home, after just having  finished her final exams, I could barely recognize Ashton. She was emaciated to the point where it looked like her clothes were trying to swallow her and her skin had red scabs all over her body. I had heard of the terrible side effects that addicts get, but I had always imagined it happening to people from broken homes. I never imagined my daughter to be so dumb as to get herself into this type of mistake. I didn’t don’t know if she was trying to test me to see how far she could go before she pushed me to completely giving up, but what I have never told her is that, I don’t think that there will ever be a time where I wont try to protect her. It doesn’t matter how bad things get, how much trouble she causes, I will always fix it for her; that what dads do.

 

So when Ashton came to me five months ago with the most terrified look I have ever seen her make, I knew. I knew this was the mistake that would make her touchable, the one thing that would make her finally admit to going to far, the one mistake that she didn’t blame me for. She walked into the kitchen right before dinner. Carter was making lamb with mint jelly and I was helping her as souse chef. Ashton slammed the kitchen door open, and walked up to me with her shoulders slumped down so low, she could have been mistaken for a cave man. Her eyes were red and her face was pale with red splotches around her eyes and cheeks. I looked at her and immediately rushed to her. I grabbed her cold, sticky face and lifted her had up so that she could look at me.

 

She said, “Daddy, I really screwed up this time. I don’t know what to do”!

 

I knew that she really must have been frightened of how I was going to take what ever she was going to tell me, because she called me daddy. She has only called me daddy twice in her life, the first was when she spoke her first word, and the second was right then.

 

I wiped the tears sliding down her face and said, “What’s wrong? What did you do”?

 

Suddenly her tears stopped, she some how managed in that split second to compose herself. She wiped her nose and eyes and said, “I’m pregnant”.

 

Those words hit me with paralysis, I didn’t move, I didn’t speak, I just stared at her. How could I have allowed this to happen? Why didn’t I guide her more when she was younger. I thought I had, I always told her to wait to have sex until she was married. I even told her that if she did decide to, to make the prick where a condom. What could I have done to stop this? How can I fix this? I must fix this! The only thing that I could blurt out of my mouth was “You must marry this boy. This boy must marry you”.  She began to sob uncontrollably while at the same time nodding in agreement with me. For once in her entire life, she didn’t fight me on my parenting. She knew that following her own instincts of decision-making were clearly faulted because of her pattern of making poor choices. She is twenty-five years old and new her boyfriend has a solid career, he and the baby could bring her that fulfilling joy of knowing your purpose for being put on this earth.

***

 

Ashton is getting married in one hour to a man I hardly know and my grandchild inside her belly. This is my last solution, my last fix. The glass window only shares but so many solutions until it fogs up from your own pondering breath.

 

Her biggest mistake is what’s going to save her life.

Her biggest mistake is what’s going to save her life.

Her biggest mistake is what’s going to save her life.

 

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