You will learn what the word “depressed” means in health class but it won’t click right away that you really know what it means. You will notice all the other happier dads and you will wonder if there was any way you could trade yours with one of them, any of them, maybe just for a few days, or maybe longer. You will get so accustomed to seeing his frowns, his scowls, and his furrowed brows that you’ll think that he was born with his face like that.
You will learn as a child that there are wrong moments to smile and even wronger moments to laugh. You will learn how to shut up even when there is so much you want to tell him. You will give him space even when you need him to come closer.
You will hide his sadness like a dirty little secret. No one will find out because you won’t let anyone find out. You will pretend and he will pretend for you, too.
At one point, you will conjure up the idea that it’s all because of you. You will tell yourself that that’s not true and your mom will tell you that, too, and so will he, but you’ll never stop wondering. Wondering if there’s something you could do better. Wondering if things could be different if you were different somehow.
And you will definitely hate him sometimes, the normal amount of hate a child might have for their dad sometimes, but for different reasons. You will want to change him, shake him, force him to be happy, because you’re happy and you don’t understand how someone could just…not be.
You will find his feelings silly. You will find him silly.
You will not understand how he could be so weak.
You will think it’s his choice, that all these years he did it on purpose. He did it to hurt you. You will want to leave him. You will want to give up on him.
But you won’t. You could never do such a thing. Because you will love him. God, you will love him so much. You had always loved him. You will wonder how to tell him you do and how much he means to you, but he already knows. You will love him so hard even when he has trouble loving himself.
You will tell him not say cruel things about himself to you. You will yell at him to stop. Just stop being that way! He’ll say he will stop even when you both know he can’t, and you will forgive him.
You will say sorry and so will he.
You will not understand how he could be so strong.
You will appreciate him.
He will be your hero. He will be your fighter. He will be the reason you know how to love. He will be the reason you try so hard at everything you do.
He will love you.
And you will both be okay.