'Drink it all in, he said. With no sense of irony. 

You never met my dad. He died when we were pretty young. I was twelve. He recorded us a video before he passed away. Reading from something he wrote. Looking directly into the camera. There was no editing. No music. Nothing but his soft voice and drowning eyes. Cheeks wet with tears. Skin blotched. Red and burning. You can hear how fragile his voice is. Dry and un-quenching. The moments, twice, where he riles himself. Steadies and continues. The ghost telling himself to continue. To leave an imprint while it still it was living.
The first tapes we opened just before the funeral. 10 minutes for me. 10 minutes for Helen. 10 minutes for the both of us. One recorded with Mum next to him. Holding hands. Her trying to keep him balanced. Strong maybe. It was the first time I’d seen them together in years. She didn’t speak in the video. She just kept looking at his fingers. Then to his face as he spoke his last words to us. The only thing we got to keep. Everything else was pawned or sold. Debts still need collecting.
More tapes followed in the years after his passing. One at eighteen. Another after graduating university. One before I got married. One to be opened when you were born. Instructions of how to live. What to remember. What to forget. What to do. How to be parent. Or in his case. How not to be. What he wished he could have been. How to be a human.
It’s only recently that I’ve come to realise it's easy to be a good person when you’re dying. It’s the living that makes every one guilty. Dying is last honourable thing you can do. Or try to do.
It’s strange watching him now. I’m older than he when sat there on the screen. Flickering between the lines of the VHS. Now a scratched DVD. I put it on when I can’t sleep. When I have my own regrets to think of. When I worry about what I’m becoming. 

Whether I’m becoming him. 

He’s the best defense against drinking. It’s in my blood too. I can feel it. I want a drink now. I want to keep on drinking. A feeling somewhere between my throat and my stomach. My fingers and my lips. Between relief and guilt. Between burning. But more than drinking, more than wanting drink is the knowledge that I don’t want to be like him. Skin waxed and melting. Trying to give us lessons after he’s dying when he couldn’t teach himself to be good at living. How not to be an alcoholic. How not to keep on drinking. It’s not his words I live through. It’s how he speaks. What he looks like. He’s a mantra to not be like him. 
He stops the camera when he needs whiskey. Beer. Cutting like blinks. Time passes between those moments. He was always drunk. He just got drunker still. You can see the light changing around him. Recorded in the morning. In the afternoon. In the evening. His face barely lit by the lamp in his 'office'. Hallowing out his cheeks. Night soon becomes him. It always did. The sun rise reveals the color of jaundice. 
You see the sips that makes him aggressive. Sharp. Like some unknown presence had taken hold of him. His laughter lingers too long. His smile going beyond his mouth. His hands weren’t built to hold. Always fashioned into fists. His knuckles were rusted. He stopping hitting Helen when I turned 11. I made it my mission to get in the way of things. There were many reasons why I came to school wearing his blood on my things.
If it was a good day he’d disappear. Out to the forests around our house. Take his aggression out on the trees that would outlive him. I followed him in the mornings. Watching to make sure he didn’t hurt anyone in the process of putting his anger into trees. He’d find a branch. Smash it against the forest. Wait until either the stick had disintegrated or the tree had found a home horizontally. It was a dead forest, but he murdered it. Every morning. Sometimes in the evening. I’d wake in the night to hear the sound of a smashed tree. As if the avalanche was happening in my dreams as well as in reality.
It was the worst to be around him before he died. When the doctors told him it was the drink that was killing him. The trees couldn’t keep all his anger in. It turned to something else then. Depression? Fury. He looked to hit people. People who weren't either just Helen or me. I'd follow him then too. Making sure he didn't swing at anything he couldn't miss. Then a phone call happened. She came through the door. She'd left him five years before. Mum had her own problems with drink. My grandad has called her in. She was AA back then. Had solutions to the repeats. That’s when the video recorder turned up. Hoping that he would be remembered for anything other than violence. Other than drinking.

He collapsed one morning. Fainting into the kitchen. Half caught between the nurse and death. Half caught between life and me. He lived for another week. Pleading with us to watch the tapes he’d left me and Helen. I promised I would. I wish I hadn’t. His death became a life sentence. An albatross.

I go into the woods a lot now. Searching for branches big enough to swing into trees that will outlive me. It’s in my nature too. Wanting to forget. Wanting to drink away what I try to forget. But I haven’t touched a drop. Not since alcohol began to feel like a crutch to keep on forgetting. To keep on living.

I don’t have any regrets about killing him. Alcohol is already a poison. I just added more in. He drank himself to an early grave. I made it earlier. I think about it everyday. Every day I hit a tree. Trying to bury him into the ground that is beyond me. I should put those tapes underground too but I can't stop watching them. 

They're the only thing left to remind me he wasn’t ever worth watching. That I’m a better father than he ever was. That he ever could be.'
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