One of the last memories I have of my father is him sitting on the edge of my bed, strumming his acoustic guitar and singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” while I was going to sleep.
I remember his long hair touching his shoulders, the tank top he was wearing because of the humid summer nights, and his bare foot moving with the music, keeping time. That was considered “our song,” our bedtime routine. Little did I know later in life it would be completely off limits to me as it could launch me into a roller coaster of emotions too painful to recover from.
Although I was too young to know at the time, my father was an alcoholic, a highly functioning alcoholic. He had struggled with severe depression his entire life, but being raised in a strict military home, it was not something that was discussed, accepted, much less sought professional help for. He became an alcoholic as a form of self-medication. When life became too difficult for him to bear, he turned to whiskey. Although this is a known problem for Indigenous Americans, it was not something that was discussed. Alcoholism disproportionally impacts our population and alcohol-related deaths happen at a substantially higher rate, but still, it was not discussed. He would have months where he was completely fine. Happy, playful. We would sing, he would make up songs with my name in them and we would sing them loudly, laughing. He taught me how to dance, we danced in the kitchen to the Chantilly Lace and talked about what song he would walk me down the aisle to (Uptown Girl).
He was an activist for tribes, a public speaker, and he would give resounding talks to large crowds. He seemed larger than life to me. But there was a downside that I didn’t see. That my mother worked
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