My Dad

Updated: Sep 16

There are a lot of times I look back on throughout my life that I think to myself "if only I had known that I had ADHD at the time, maybe things would be different." Most of my relationship with my dad accounts for the majority of those times.

Mom married Dad on December 20th, 1982. Prior to this my mom and I had moved around quite a bit during the first 2 years of my life. My bio-dad had made it clear that he didn't want anything to do with me at this point so for all intents and purposes I had no father figure in my life prior to this. Despite our differences, I have a ton of respect for my dad. If I didn't, I wouldn't have called him Dad, nor would I have taken his last name (I was born Braden Leavitt). One thing I will say about my dad is that he treated both my mother and my sister amazingly. He always made sure they were safe and taken care of. He literally gave Mom everything he had up until the day he died. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loved my mother with every ounce of his soul and would have gone to the ends of the earth for her. I just wish he had felt the same way about me as his son. But I digress.

Dad and I painting the house in Monitor, WA shortly before my sister was born.

I really don't remember a lot about the first few years living with him in Monitor. I remember the day my sister Jennifer was born. I do know that things were better for my mom and I.

I remember they took Mom back and I tried to run after her, but Grandma Bunny (Dad's mom) and his 2 sisters, stopped me.

Dad holding my sister when she first came home.

After my sister was born is when I do remember everything changing. It was at that point that it became apparent that I wasn't his son. I bear no ill will towards him because if nothing else he always took care of his family first and foremost.

He would often treat her with much higher regard than me. Eventually she caught on to this and she would make a show of how Dad would tell me "No" to things and then when she would ask, he would have no problem with it. Since her birthday was 1 month after mine, she would also do things like asking for birthday presents that I didn't get for my birthday but really wanted. One such gift was a blow-up dinosaur that I wanted for my birthday that year but didn't get. She then asked for it for her birthday and got it. Not only that, but she then wouldn't let me touch it and would play with it right in front of me. My sister openly admits to doing things like this to me now. She has actually apologized for the way she treated me multiple times over and we have a really good relationship now.

Dad at his retirement party.

When I was around 12 years old, Dad had a heart attack and didn't realize it. A year or 2 later we found out that 2/3 of his heart was not functioning. At that time, they gave him 6 months to live. Mom didn't tell us that part until after he passed away. Dad went into early retirement when I was about 15 and he spent the next few years taking better care of himself health-wise.

Once I hit about 10 or 11 years old is when things really started to go downhill between Dad and me. In hindsight, I really think this correlates with when my ADHD really began to come out. It was during this time that I became much more impulsive and started to question my dad's way of thinking. I would often get into very heated arguments with him over small things like how clean my room was, or what time I was supposed to be home. This is when he began getting more aggressive, and sometimes physical. He would never hit me or anything like that per se. But there were times we would get in a fight and he would do things like push me up against the wall and hold me there. One time he slammed my hand in my drawer because I had stuffed my clothes in my drawers instead of folding them and putting them away properly and he was pretty OCD about things being clean and organized. I think with his straightforward and logical way of thinking, it was hard for him to wrap his head around the way my brain worked. At the time we didn't know I had ADHD and so the whole neurodivergent part of me was a mystery. To Dad, I think, it just came across as laziness and defiance. Whenever things would get physical like this, I just sort of took it at first and never fought back or anything because I've never liked conflict and I just wanted it to be over. It wasn't until I actually did stand up for myself once after I got older that he started to show some mutual respect towards me. I'm not sure if this was his way of trying to teach me how to "be a man" or not, and sadly, I would never get the chance to really ask him.

Then came his last day. Had I known that it was going to be his last day, I would have taken more time to spend with him.

It was right after I had finished my sophomore year of high school. That day I had gotten invited to go to a party by a girl I was hyper-fixated on at the time (yet another sign of my undiagnosed ADHD) and some friends, her boyfriend would be there too, which I wasn't too happy about, but whatever. This was honestly the first party I was going to where there would be drinking. I knew I wouldn't drink as I have a weird thing about control over myself and I was terrified of getting drunk.

So, terrified out of my wits, I asked Dad if I could go. He asked if there would be any drinking. I told him yes, but that I would not drink. To my surprise, Dad said it was fine, but he would have to talk to Mom first. Now, this was absolutely unheard of from my dad. He didn't trust me for anything, much less to go to a party where there would be drinking involved and no chaperones. So, for him to agree to this was huge! And then, to make things even crazier, he spent the next hour and a half on the phone with Mom convincing her to let me go because I needed to prove I was a responsible young man, and that I needed to be able to experience these things. She eventually agreed. After Dad got off the phone, I thanked him excitedly and went downstairs to get ready. As I went to head out the door to go pick up my friend Joe, Dad stopped me and told me he loved me and to be careful. And the last words he said to me before I left, which continue to haunt me to this day, were "don't embarrass me Son."

I thanked him and told him I loved him and walked out the door completely unaware that it was going to be the last time I would ever see my dad again.

He died that night at around 3 am in his sleep. The next morning, Dad's brother-in-law Uncle Tom, found our campsite up Blue Grade canyon. I saw him driving down the hill towards our campsite. He had a very distinct light blue and white ford F250 so I knew it was him from a mile away. When he got to our campsite he got out of the truck and told me the bad news and that I needed to come home. I told my friends what was going on and asked them to drive my car home later that day.

When I got back to the house there was an emptiness that was never really filled. As much as he and I had fought throughout my life, he had always taken care of us. He worked hard, and he sacrificed a lot so that we could have the things we had.

When I was fiddling around with Dad's favorite recliner, I opened one of the arms which had storage compartments built into them and found a bible. When I opened the Bible, there were passages for dealing with grief marked with sticky notes. It's as if he knew what was coming. I found this really strange because Dad was never a religious man. In fact, whenever Mom, Jen, and I would go to church, he would always stay home. I didn't know why until after he died when I learned that Dad had wanted to be a pastor at one point. But that all changed when Dad's former wife had had an affair with Dad's best friend at the time who was also the minister of the church Dad went to. This turned Dad off to all religions pretty heavily obviously.

After that, I learned even more details about his last day. Apparently, after I left, Dad arranged for my sister to spend the night with Grandma Bunny. Grandpa Young had just passed away that February so Dad's reasoning was that it would be good for Jen to keep her company for a night. He then spent the day doing odd chores, like trimming the hedges and cleaning the garage. Later that night he and Mom had his sisters and their husbands over for dinner. And later that night (even though this was just a bit TMI for me) Mom told me that they were intimate for the first time in like 6 years.

All of these things lead me to believe that he knew something was going to happen. Ultimately though, Dad at least went out with respect and dignity. And although his and I's relationship was tumultuous at best, I've chosen to remember him with respect, and, if nothing else, a slightly flawed but still good role model. I still miss him to this day and hope that I continue to succeed in not embarrassing him.

Dad, my sister, and myself at John Wayne Airport during our trip to Disneyland 1993

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