A couple of years ago my daughter chose to stop speaking to me. My only child. It was unexpected. She refuses to believe that I love her immensely and respect the hell out of her. Yes, I’m purposely using the present tense. As far as I know, she’s 30, married, successful, possibly happy, has a dog that she adores, and may already have her first child — my first grandchild. But I don’t know. I may never know.
I’ve spoken about this to many of my close female friends. Most are mothers. What surprised me was that their reactions were all quite similar. Shock, then sometimes tears, followed by admitting that there was once a painful distance from their own daughter. Apparently, this wasn’t that uncommon.
Many said I should do whatever was possible to bring her back. I tried. I flew from Mexico to the States to see her but she would not see me face-to-face. She provided me with a five-point ultimatum, and I had to agree to all her points before she would consider seeing me. I immediately agreed to three, but hesitated on the last two. The final points consisted of admitting that I had been emotionally abusive to her and that my compliments, of which there were many, were backhanded.
The former I’ll discuss in a moment. Regarding the latter, every single compliment and appreciative comment that I ever made about her was entirely reflective of how I feel about her, and I would never ever take one of them back. I had imagined my deceased father, whom I adored, being in my shoes. He would have agreed to all five points. In time, it would have broken my heart.
Emotionally abusive. It’s a difficult thing to hear. I never yelled at her. Never spanked her nor belittled her in front of her friends or mine. I was too sensitive a preadolescent and remembered all too well how my older friends’ playful taunts damaged my self-esteem to do that to her. But I was a young father, 24 years old — emotionally going on 17 — thrown into a very difficult situation. I am quite willing to admit that I made mistakes. The kind that all parents make without malice. Feeding your child an hour later than usual, forgetting to give them money for picture day. When I taught her to ride a bike, I forgot to teach her how to use the brakes. I was horrible at doing her ponytail. But I never did anything to hurt her purposefully.
There was that one day though. I believe it was May 10, 2014. How I wish I could return and change that day forever. I’ve often commented on how the day of her birth was the best day of my life. No parental BS there. It really was, and I’ve had some wonderful days. But May 10, 2014, was the worst day of my life. I’ve also had some horrible days, but none come close to it.
Allow me to explain. For the past 42 years, I have had juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. A form of epilepsy that is treatable, but incurable. Beginning in fall of 2012, I began to notice a dramatic rise in my seizure activity. After repeated medication and dosage changes, I was prescribed Keppra as an adjunct to my other anti-seizure med around May 6 of 2014. I knew essentially nothing about Keppra and was not provided any information except for the dosage and a good luck. Every anti-seizure medication comes with serious side-effects. Keppra may have the worst. As I was soon to experience and as thousands of others can easily testify, Keppra often leads to extremely severe mood swings.
May 10. I woke up shaking in my apartment. I immediately went into the street in my pajamas and barefoot (this is unheard of in Mexico City) and began greeting office workers rushing to the grind. I went to visit friends who shared a veterinarian clinic and would alternate between laughing and crying while my conversation would make no sense. As suddenly as I arrived, I would leave. Then return and start the whole process again. Rocio, one of the aforementioned friends, would walk me home again, but I was a man on a mission.
As the day progressed I began writing emails and I began to become suicidal. I became convinced that I would end my life that evening. No real reason why. Then I called my daughter and asked to speak to her husband, my son-in-law. I remember about two minutes of the conversation although it was much longer. Knowing that I was no longer for this world, I told him that which was never to be mentioned to her. If you’re thinking that the secret was that I sexually abused my daughter, you’re far off the mark.
But that night — that drug-induced night where I behaved against my wishes and out of my control — I lost the person that I love the most. I sent her heartfelt apologies and articles explaining the side-effects of Keppra. I traveled to Texas twice to heal this wound, but it has all failed.
I immediately began to research Keppra and its side-effects and after living through the worst 10 days of my life, I essentially forced my neurologist to take me off of it as soon as possible. One week later, the panic attacks had come to a stop. My friends and family said that I had returned to being myself. At the end of it, I’d lost my daughter, my girlfriend who I loved very much, and a few friends. The one consolation I have is a community of epileptics who have been through similar situations. And that I’m alive.
My daughter’s name is Laura. Perhaps I’m prejudiced but she is the most wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, creative girl and, now, woman that I’ve known.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again or even hear her voice. She’s asked for time and I’ve agreed to give her the space that she requires. This is essentially out of my control. I did decide that I could handle it if I never see her again. I’d miss her obviously and I’d miss the opportunity of being a grandfather.
But I was a great dad. I read her stories every night. Regularly took her to the park. I answered every question she had honestly. I danced with her at music festivals. She would say, “I love how you crazy dance, Daddy!” The list goes on. If my life consists of actively being a father for 28 years, then I am satisfied with how I did.
David Salas Mayaudon is a pseudo-world traveler who is skilled at making a multitude of embarrassing innocent mistakes in far too many cultures.