My father – Robie Thomas Childers, Jr. M.D. 6′ 2″ 240 lbs – was a wife and child beater, an open philanderer, an alcoholic and drug and sex addict.
He was the son of a coal miner born in New Hope, WV. He became a preacher by the age of 13. He was tongue-tied and his mother wouldn’t let him have surgery to release his tongue for fear it would hurt him. So, he worked and saved his own money and paid for the operation himself.
He was the first person in his family to go to and graduate college – at LSU. He served in WWII in the U.S. Army, though he never, ever spoke of what he did. I suspect it was in some medical regard. He graduated in the top 2% of his class at Emory Medical School and spent most of his career working at state mental hospitals (Massillon, OH, and Richmond, IN). He was a research psychiatrist and did pioneering work on Thorazine and Stellazine, and some of his work was published and is located in the Library of Congress.
My mother told me that he, while a medical student, forced her to abort an older sibling of mine with a coat hanger. She was mortified and traumatized by that, and I think she never got over it.
On January 22, 1965, at the age of 42, my father took his life with a .45 automatic pistol. He left behind my mother and me and my two younger sisters, as well as his second wife and their daughter and son. None of our lives have ever been the same.
I and we are his legacy.
We were destroyed and learned to get back up. We learned that suicide only stops the pain for one person, but makes it much, much worse for everyone else. I learned that I will never know exactly why he was the way he was or why he did what he did. I finally learned that his death was not about me; it was his life and his death. I have learned that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about what I can or can’t do.
It matters what I think I can do.
I learned that my father would be proud of the man that I have become. I am not a wife or child beater. I am not a philanderer. I am not an alcoholic or drug addict. I may be slightly inclined toward sex addiction – maybe – or just a healthy appetite. I have learned to take a stand for what I believe in … regardless of what others think about it.
I am a man and I have earned my right to be here.
Thank you, Dad.