My father, David Rosen, and Me

The Tears of Our Fathers

Throughout my childhood, I got to visit my Dad on weekends and certain holidays. During one weekend visit when I was about five years old, he went into his bathroom to take a shower.

I was sitting in his room listening to the sound of the water when a thought came into my head. Seemingly hypnotized, I got up, walked to the kitchen and filled a large bowl with ice cold water.

Being careful to use both hands and not spill any of the water, I made my way back to my father’s room. Gently, adeptly and silently I used one of my feet to nudge open the bathroom door.

Without any hesitation, I stood up onto the edge of the bathtub and threw the frigid water over the shower curtain onto my father’s head.

He let out a shriek, the ice water taking him utterly by surprise.

He looked at me and stated, “I will get you back for this. You are in for it. You will never, ever be safe again in this house.”

I laughed. He laughed.

And so it was that for the next 30 years we inflicted a variety of practical jokes upon one another. And his words would ring as true, I was never safe again showering anywhere he was. I either triple locked the door or some horrendously cold water was bound to find its way over the shower curtain when I least expected it.

We had a relationship that people would classify as unusually loving. He was the heart chakra of my childhood. Dad taught me so much about humor, loving life, loving people, loving the arts.

He came to all my sports matches. He took me to Central Park and when I wanted to play baseball, but it was only the big kids around, he would say, “Go right up to them and ask them to play. You’re good enough. Show them.” And so I learned not to be afraid of “the big kids.”

He also taught me a lot about breaking rules. Of course, there’s a light side and a shadow side to those lesson plans, but they ultimately helped me to think outside the box. And that has turned out to be a real gift in my life.

Towards the end of Dad’s life he had become sick. His body was corrupted and it was no longer enjoyable for him to be alive. He was so unhappy and decided he wanted to leave this Earth behind.

He went off all of his medications, placed himself in bed at home and pronounced himself to be in hospice and ready to die.

I believe his thought was that he would just die in a few days and it would be all over. But life holds on to life.

About a week later, he was still alive. He took off his oxygen mask and said, “Fuck it. Let’s go to the movies.” I looked questioningly at him and he nodded.

You see, my dad LOVED the movies. He had an outstanding collection of VHS tapes covering an entire wall in his home. The movies were everything to us when I was growing up.

So, we got him into a wheel chair and wheeled him across to the Grove Theaters to see a film he really wanted to see.

When we got there, the film was sold out! My dad’s like, “Can you believe this shit?”

We decided instead to see Daredevil. It is an action film based on a comic book character starring Ben Affleck.

Dad sat quietly watching throughout the film. When it was over, the credits were rolling and he motioned me over. He wanted to tell me something. He took off his oxygen mask, looked at me and plainly stated, “I survived this long to see this piece of shit.”

It’s a line that will live forever in my mind encapsulating the spirit of a man who’s joyous, playful and rebellious soul could no longer be held in the physical form.

Dad died a few days later.

The depth of the love I felt from and for that man is one of the greatest gifts I have been given in this life. In my lowest moments as an active drug addict, his prayer for me to survive and thrive remained constant.

I write the following in my book, Recovery 2.0, about the day I reached my bottom.

I will never know how I survived that night…The only thing I could think to do was to call my father. He was the person to whom I was most deeply connected on the planet. I had always relied upon him when I got into trouble. He would console me and I would be okay. I told him how bad things were, how I had no girlfriend or friends to speak of. How this had happened and that had happened. I told him everything I could — except for the truth.

Then he simply stated, “You’re on drugs again. I know you’re on drugs! Aren’t you?”

I said, “Yes, Dad, I am.”

He said bluntly that this time I was going to have to go to rehab. I then bluntly replied that I would not go. There was a silence on the phone that lasted about ten seconds. Then I realized my dad had started to cry. All of my arrogance and stubbornness fell away as I glimpsed the effect I’d had on him. “Dad, please stop crying, I’ll go. I’ll go.”

Addiction is a mysterious thing. You never know what it will take to break its force field and allow a person to change course and survive. My recovery was initiated upon the tears of my father.”

Today, I am remembering the blessings Dad bestowed upon me — the hilarious antics as well as the challenges. I’m seeing the whole picture. That effort to see the whole picture has contributed to my well-being and made sustainable recovery possible.

I have been liberated from the challenges of that relationship, but believe me, the hilarious antics continue even now.

Happy Father’s Day to you all.

— Tommy Rosen

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Tommy Rosen

Tommy Rosen

Yoga Teacher, Author, Lifestyle Engineer, Addicton Recovery Expert