My father was a difficult man to love. He could be arrogant, narcissistic, and tyrannical at times. When I was little, I both loved and feared him. He was an alcoholic and I learned quickly how to recognize the signs of total inebriation and would generally keep my distance when that was the case mostly because his rage quadrupled when he was drunk. To this day I've still never met anyone who could yell and scream as loud as he could.
My father was also funny, witty and quite intelligent. But he was a textbook example of wasted potential. He was plagued by insecurities, passivity, depression and the general inability to see himself clearly, to truly recognize his faults. I did not come to terms with these latter qualities he possessed until after his suicide. My relationship with him in my teenage years was shaky at best and in true teenage form, I remember the word "hate" being tossed around on many different occasions. I believe I meant it and due solely to my relationship with him, I understand how easily love and hate can exist on the same plane. Truthfully, I both loved and hated him.
Since his death in December of 1998, I've experienced every emotion and feeling possible - some I didn't even realize existed. Sadness, regret, self-blame, anger, resentment, hostility, pity, depression, remorse, confusion, bitterness. It wasn't until more than 10 years after his death did I seek professional help for myself and now I can confidently say I am at peace with it all. I do feel that I lost so many good years of my young life to reliving the tragedy, aggravating the wounds and dwelling in regret but I'm at peace with that too now. It's difficult and it definitely doesn't come natural to me, but I'm looking forward more than backwards these days.
I've forgiven him and I hope wherever he is, if he is, he's found the tranquility and love he never received enough of here on earth. Now, when I think of him, the only emotion I'm overwhelmed with is sympathy.
This is the journal of Clay Kevin Tillett. There is no written date but I believe it was begun the summer of 1998 and ended the night of his death, December 17, 1998.
He shot himself in the middle of the night in the home he shared with my mom and me. He was only 38 years old.
My dream was to be beautiful, to be scarred but stronger because of it, to be a puppeteer, a gymnast, a ballerina, a poet, a storyteller, a writer, an astronaut, a lover. My head, a vessel for endless imagery, held countless painful melancholy but beautiful pictures – pictures needing materializing so that I’d never forget them. My biggest childhood fears were dying from disease, my parents dying, and forgetting – anything and everything. My biggest adolescent fears were getting older, living to see the next day, and being alone. At 29 I still hold a combination of all of those fears. Today, I’m a wife, a homeowner, an animal-lover, a daughter, a survivor, a photographer and make my living as a graphic designer. In my free time I’m primarily a nude photographer and have exhibited in Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, London, Brisbane, and Rome.
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