The Day My Father Leapt To His Death, I Was Offered A Sandwich

I’m still waiting on a sympathy card from my mother

Colleen Patten
Human Parts
Published in
12 min readAug 23, 2023

--

Colleen Patten 2023

There is nothing quite like driving over your father’s dead body to set the tone for your teenage experience. “I guess some psycho jumped off the bridge.” That’s exactly how my neighbor Linda said it, with reckless abandon, as she drove me to school. It was the first day back after Christmas vacation. We passed my brother’s car. A distinctively cool 1992 Volkswagen GTI. It looked as if it was parked in a hurry and the door was open. Maybe urgent early morning snacks at the gas station?

Then I saw cops walking the bridge. One had even partially climbed the fence and was peering over the edge. In that moment I grew the fuck up. It wasn’t my period, it wasn’t the first time I got punched in the face, or the first time I made love. It was the moment when I squared off with my father’s dead body. I shrugged my shoulders and moved my neck in a way that lets you know I’m preparing for a blow. I hopped around shadow boxing. Ready for all the jabs life would take at me from that moment forward. It was a familiar but gut wrenching dance I’d done a thousand times before.

I was wearing my favorite brown Sublime t-shirt and gray terry cloth pants. I can still make any boring piece of clothing look good. I dragged a friend into the bathroom and told her of my father’s suspected, untimely, and dramatic death.

“You’re totally overreacting. Your dad would never leave you, not like that.” She was so wrong, and I knew it. But I played along.

“Yeah. You’re probably right.” I imagined coming home from school that day and recounting the story to my father.

“Hey Daddy. I’m happy that you’re alive. Today some psycho killed himself on the bridge, maybe you heard about it? Anyway, I thought it was you for approximately 3 hours. But, then I came to my senses. You’d never leave me. Not in this dragon’s lair. Not in some smoke and mirrors fashion. Because you love me.” Then, he’d pick me up in his arms the way he did when I was smaller and say, “heeey baby”, in the usual way that he’d say, hey baby. “Nah, I’d never leave you. Not you.”

--

--