I see him when I go to Alabama. There are no birthday calls or Thanksgiving calls and there shol’ ain’t no Father’s Day calls. But I’ve always let him know if I’m coming home.
He likes to bring you gifts, even though I told him that he didn’t have to. Last time he brought you a Nerf football. You ate half of it and I threw it away.
This time he brought you a toy truck with a trailer and a horse. You loved it.
And dude, y'all had these deep chats about trains. When he said he used to work on them, and picked up your Hiro engine to show you all the stuff he did? You became an official Joe Steele Stan. You had the nerve to say, “That’s MY grandfather.”
After he left, I thought you would come over and say, “That brother is deep.”
Anyway, this trip I really looked at my dad. He’s looking a lot better. He stopped drinking and smoking a while ago. I think I just never thought that the change would be permanent. I thought he just happened to be being good when I was in town. But I can see the changes in his skin. His eyes. He looks good. He speaks clearer. He looks stronger. But his heart is really delicate.
He has had open heart surgeries and pacemakers and now has a defibrulator. And he has to take regular medication. And all of this after a bout with cancer.
He doesn’t have a wife. Nor a girlfriend. He laughed and talked about how the phone company and renters take advantage of him because he’s just an old man without a woman to keep them all on the up and up.
I told you that I am out of the habit of being his daughter. But the truth is a little sharper than that.
To be honest, I knew that these days would come. I knew that he would need me. And I knew that it was going to be so deliciously karmic to deny him all the things that a good daughter does for her father. I also knew that I WOULD BE RIGHT, and not a soul would be able to say otherwise.
Well, except for those fuckwads who say, “But he’s your faaaather.” Fuck those guys.
Love, is an almost daily exercise. At some point, you need to have had daily, cumbersome choreography with a person. I never had that with my father. He chose his life of wine, women and song over my life of shirts that didn’t quite reach my wrists, Salvation Army toys and college loans.
I thought that it would be my pleasure to look him dead in the eye and say, “Well, now. Backed the wrong horse there, didn’t you?” And then I would sweep out of the room Dominique Devareaux style.
But I’m going to help him.
Nothing big. I am going to sort out his phone situation for him. He needs a nice old-people phone with big buttons and a screen so I can send him pictures of you. And I got him a Christmas gift from you. A gift certificate to his favorite restaurant.
Don’t think I just went all Lifetime TV movie, though. I think that perhaps the Buddha made a little appearance.
If I don’t feel like calling my father, I don’t. If I don’t want to see him, I don’t. I don’t have to do anything daughterly that I don’t want to do. And that’s okay.
But on the flip side, I don’t need to hold back if I do.
It is okay to enjoy the moments that I am with him. I don’t need to look forward. I don’t need to look back. It is okay to not hold back any of me from him and the moment.
I almost didn’t take this picture. I realized that I didn’t want him to know that I wanted a picture of the two of us. I’m glad I took it anyway.