Dad, you want to skip this post. Betty, you read everything anyway.
So you all know how I love to write about shoes and dresses and sparkles and dating and raindrops on kittens and the like.
Not that I'm always sunshiney - we all know that's not true - but I often splish splash around in the shallow end. It's fun there.
And the truth is that I do spend an inordinate amount of time on stuff like that. But I spend some piece of almost every day of my life on the following. And sometimes it's easier than others. But lately, it's hard.
I'm writing this knowing full well that a lot of people just don't know what to say in response to things like this. And that's OK. But just know that it won't be fun to read.
There's no punch line. It's more like a punch in the stomach.
My dad, my dad is always complicated. He struggles. He's a smart, smart man. He's loving and good and kind and well-intentioned, and he has always tried to be there for us and make sure that we have whatever we need.
Even now, when I'm a married adult, he helps and he offers. I'm still his kid.
And I love the shit out of him. And I am always his kid. And he's always my dad. That will never change.
But as I said, he's complicated. He struggles. Sometimes more than others. And lately, lately is a big struggle for him. Which puts me on constant alert.
Two years ago next month - and those of you who have known me for a while know this - my dad tried to commit suicide. It wrecked us for a good chunk of time.
We spent the following two months going to the hospital, and then eventually the psych ward, every day. We fought my dad sometimes. We fought each other sometimes. We fought the money-focused healthcare system - and won.
We all walked out alive and stronger. But so battered, so scathed.
Eventually, though, it got better. It never feels totally safe, but it often feels OK.
OK, but some piece of scared, of expecting the worst, is always there. It's the flinch of an ambulance siren going by. Or a too-early morning phone call. Or a tone in a voice.
It wasn't the first time, and I already knew I was good in a crisis - this specific kind of crisis, with slightly different details. I knew I was strong. I knew I could handle it. And I did - but barely. It shredded me.
It's something I know I have the fortitude for. But I cannot imagine how I would summon the strength if I had to right now.
And right now, my dad is in a bad place. I know he is trying. He's really, really trying. He says so, and I see it.
Things changed the last time. It stopped being a secret. I forced that. I was done with the huge, unhealthy, never talked about family secret.
I claimed my grief and my terror and my struggle as mine - because it is. My dad has his, my mom has hers, my brother has his, no matter how much he tries to tamp it down and avoid it. And I have mine.
And my dad, for which I am very, very proud of him, he started talking about it, for the first time ever. And now he is actually articulating where he is and what he's fighting and how he's working towards staying with us.
Which is so different from before.
Now, I can actually say in the here and now, "I need you. I need you with us. My kid needs you."
I know for sure he is trying. He wants to be there for us, for his grandson. But sometimes for him, it's so very hard. I know this.
The thing that scares me most is that I understand the piece - which I know varies in size depending on the day and the circumstance - that feels like maybe this life and this heaviness this particular struggle is more than you can handle.
I don't feel it myself, but I've peered in at the edge, and I understand it, and how powerful it can be.
I know that once you slide into that smooth, dark tunnel, where there is no light, no sense of hope, no hand-holds on which to catch yourself - just smooth, smooth emptiness, it feels impossible to get out on your own. All you can do is slide forward towards what seems like a reasonable, singular solution.
I know it.
It terrifies me.