Editor's note: Please read Nick's touching story of bonding and loss. That is all. -Brett
I'll never forget the phone call that woke me up at 5:30 a.m. on April 13, 2010. It was my mom calling from the hospital…with news that my dad had died.
Three days before my father's death, my mom took him to the hospital because he was experiencing severe pain in his body. He was a diabetic, which either caused most of his ailments — he had many — or magnified them. His kidneys gave him the most trouble, but a heart attack in the middle of the night caused his death.
I experienced a surreal mix of emotions in the month following my dad's passing: grief, bewilderment, acceptance…and relief. Allow me to explain.
My dad was sick for a very long time. It affected his mental well-being. As his condition worsened, he became angry, bitter, and resentful. He was in constant physical and mental agony, which caused him to lash out at my family, and my mother in particular. His attitude and behavior drained me and my family to a point where we found it absolutely unbearable to be in his presence. When my dad died, I felt relieved not only for myself and my family — I felt relieved for him, too.
Thankfully, my relationship with my father ended on good terms. And now that I've accepted my dad's passing and come to a sense of closure, I want to share a story with you. It's a story about love, bonding, and a video game featuring a quartet of time-traveling turtles.
Even before my father became ill, I found it hard to emotionally connect with him. He wasn't one of those parents who you could just open up to. But I do remember one thing that brought us together on multiple occasions: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4: Turtles in Time.
For anyone younger than 20, Turtles in Time is an arcade beat-'em-up that came out for the Super Nintendo in 1992. If you can't deduce it from the title of the game, it focuses on the turtles time-traveling to kick some Foot Soldier ass.
My parents bought me Turtles in Time when I was seven years old. Naturally, I adored the game because I could play as my four favorite reptiles. But I really loved Turtles in Time because my dad and I enjoyed playing it together.
I would choose Donatello, and he would choose either Michelangelo or Raphael (sorry, Leonardo — you're just too bland). We had a blast double-teaming Baxter Stockman, raiding the Technodrome, and pummeling pirate versions Rocksteady and Bebop (don't ask). Most of all, we loved hurling Foot Soldiers at the TV screen.
Doing this never gets old. NEVER.
How did I manage to bond with my father, a non-gamer, through a video game? Part of the reason is that Turtles in Time is just damn entertaining. It has simple but addictive gameplay, so anyone — gamer or not — can easily jump in and start smashing Foot Clan skulls. On a basic level, my dad and I simply had a lot of fun with the game.
But I think the main reason my dad and I loved Turtles in Time is because we actually found something we enjoyed doing together. Sure, I liked Turtles in Time because it featured my favorite heroes. But I loved Turtles in Time because I could share the experience with my dad. And I'm sure that my dad played the game because it was a way to connect with me.
No, my father and I didn't bond much. But when we were "heroes in a half shell" kicking Krang's and Shredder's asses, we connected. We beat the game only a few times, but I didn't care. As the saying goes: It's not about the end, but the journey. And the journeys I took with my dad as turtles in time are experiences that I'll never forget.