Broken Windows

Sociologist have discovered when something looks clean and taken care of then people will leave it alone.  But if it looks neglected and ignored, then people will take advantage of it.

I lost my father when I was in fifth grade.  The divorce and the searching had set-off a biological trigger in him. His mother had committed suicide when he was seven-years-old. When my brother and I had been ripped from him he lived to find us—he didn’t want to feel abandoned again.  Once he found us he let his depression take over.  He started drinking heavily and doing drugs.  He stopped working—he stopped talking.  He would see us on his assigned times and live for those moments—and then would be lost for the next week or two weeks.  He had no job and no money, he wasn’t able to pay child support.  The modicum of civility between my parents was lost.

Without work—without support—he fell further down the spiral.  He became homeless and started sleeping in his run down truck.   I became ashamed of him.  I didn’t want my friends to see my drunk-homeless father.  In my middle school years he would disappear for months at a time.  When he would show up he wasn’t the same person.  He began to become dependent upon me to help him.  I was less than twelve-years-old when our roles reversed.

During the winter of ’94 there was a terrible snow storm.  I got home from school and saw a skeleton of the man I once called Dad.

“I need somewhere to stay.”  He begged as he shivered in front of me.  I walked him up to my bedroom.  Like most sophomore high school boys, my closet had become a catch-all for the things I didn’t need.  It was piled knee high with old clothes and toys.  I cleaned a spot out for my dad and put a blanket and a pillow in it for him.

My mother worked eighty hours a week  to provide my brother and I with a good life.  Each night when she got home, she would bring whatever fast food we wanted.  I started sneaking food up to my father who was hiding in my closet.  He became reliant on me to provide for him the necessities of life.  He hid in my room and under my care for two months—I snuck him food, I snuck him to the bathroom; it became so bad that I even gave him a bottle to urinate in and then I emptied it for him.  My mom—to this day—does not know he was in there.  As the weather warmed, my father hugged me and walked back onto the streets.  In that moment I hated him for what he had done to me.

My father is manic depressive/bipolar.  The doctors helped my addict father begin his sober life—they taught him that what he was really using the drugs for was self-medicating—he was trying to fill that lonely emptiness he felt due to his mental illness with drugs and alcohol.   He is an addict and will always be an addict.   His half-sister continued to help, she gave him a place to stay, helped him to find a job, brought him to a dentist to fix his toothless mouth so he looked presentable again—so that society wouldn’t see this man shattered on the floor.  He was a broken window.  That first crack when his mother killed herself allowed for other cracks—it allowed for others to shatter the man he was.  People walked by him seeing a broken man and would take further advantage of him.  Assume he was dumb and a drain on society—a man who can’t keep a job or have enough willpower to stay off drugs is no better than a dog.  Those cracks in his window become shattered glass and shards on the ground.  His windows are part of my windows. Some in my position might have used the pain and shame to let their cracks grow.  To let the negative forces shatter their windows and leave them broken on the floor.  And that might have happened to me except. . .

I was lucky.  These pains are my success.  My window has many cracks—but I have friends come and tape it up.  I have positive adults to repair my foundation.  And I have myself—to be aware when I feel a crack—and ask for help when I need it.  Through these things my window becomes larger with each success.

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