Community Papers

Mental Health Matters: And, that’s the last word on this . . .

Thank you for all your support for our Christmas stories, but just a reminder — they are not our stories, they are yours.

And, here is another.

We have paraphrased and changed the names, but not the story.

We hope you like it.

Steve was a policeman and, like most officers, he had to juggle shift work with the responsibilities of being a husband, father and neighbour.

At this stage of his life, many aspects of his life were ideal: The perfect, supportive, beautiful wife, the perfect job, the perfect co-workers, the perfect city in which to live and work.

The only part that needed improvement — a lot of improvement — was his relationship with his 17-year-old daughter, Sammy.

“Funny,” he would say to Josie, his wife, “I have three kids who love and respect me — and then there’s Sam.”

From the time she was 12 and started to develop physically and emotionally, Steve took her independent stances seriously and stopped hugging her and demanding her time to spend together.

Instead, Sammy and Steve fought every day. Sometimes their arguments would ring throughout the house, and would end with Steve shouting, “I am your father and this is the last word on this!”

Josie tried to mediate between the two.

Separately, she would implore them to listen to each other more and try to see the other’s point of view.

It was like talking to two stubborn mules — and Steve always had to have the last word.

One day at work in the last week before Christmas, Steve had to deal with the tragic and sad death of a 16-year-old girl and the experience rattled him.

On the advice of his sergeant, Steve made an appointment and talked about the incident to a department psychologist.

Steve told her that it was the realization this girl could have easily been his own Sammy that affected him so much.

With a few gentle probes, the psychologist finally asked, “What is the message that you want Samantha to have that you have not communicated because of your fighting?”

Steve blurted out without any hesitation, “She has no idea how much I love her.”

The next day, Steve and Sammy were at it again in the kitchen.

They had eaten dinner early to accommodate Steve’s 7 p.m. shift start and Sam was hitting him up for cash.

Josie listened from living room, cringing as their voices rose about skirt length, neckline depth, tight-fitting clothing, too much makeup.

Sammy stormed through the living room in tears, stomped down the hall to her bedroom and slammed the door.

Steve stood in the doorway and looked at Josie nearly in tears.

He strode down the hallway and knocked on Sam’s door.

“What!” she screamed with music blaring.

“Come out here!” her father said loud enough to be heard over the music.

The music stopped and the door cracked open.

Steve gently pushed the door open and, although he had not physically touched his daughter even once in at least last five years, he grabbed her firmly by both shoulders, bent over to look her directly in the face and said, “I am so sorry for what I have shown you. It has sounded like criticism when really it’s my fear of losing you and my realization I can’t protect you anymore.

“I don’t know how to be your dad and I’m doing a terrible job.”

Sammy stared at her father open-mouthed.

“Why are you telling me this now?”

Steve pulled her close to his chest and held her tightly for a long time.

Finally, with a faltering voice, he said, “I don’t want to risk that you might be unsure of how I really feel.

“The things that make me mad or scared about you are the same qualities I fell in love with in your mom.

“I need you to always know that I love you so much and I am so proud of you — and that’s my last word on this.”

Sammy’s tears flowed unabated and Josie, invisible down the hall, was experiencing the same thing.

She barely heard her daughter say, “I love you too, daddy” — something Sam had not called her father for many years.

Steve went off to work and, a few hours later, the doorbell rang.

When Josie answered the door, two uniformed officers told her Steve had been struck and killed by a drunk driver while at a roadside checkpoint.

That Christmas was difficult, to say the least, and the passage of time applied its healing ointment, as it does for all pain.

However, rather than sadness at Christmas after that, Samantha continued to treasure her final Christmas present from her dad: “I need you to always know that I love you so much and I am so proud of you — and that’s my last word on this.”

Thank you for reading our column and for sending us your comments and stories to Kamloops@cmha.bc.ca because we always love to hear from you.

Remember to tell the important people in your life what you really want them to know.

 

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