My father had a heart attack the other day. Not his first. He started with the heart attacks in his 30s.
He didn’t call me, I found out through the grapevine. And I didn’t call him. I just find out whatever news through my mom.
Is that odd to you? I bet it will be odd to you. The idea of me being so calm when something is wrong with my dad.
Because if Grandpa W sneezes too much, your father strips naked and runs around the block railing at the the heavens. The idea that one day, his father will not be here? That doesn’t compute. I’m sure you will feel the same about your dad.
It is different for me.
So my dad was 19 when I was born. And 19 year old dads make a TON of mistakes. I get it. I can see the huge imprints on my life clearly:
I’m sure you’ve already found out that if you stand me up? I got BAT. FUCK. CRAZY. If you’re late and don’t call? Wow. You get a file folder of material for your case for my inevitable committal to a crazy house. That’s because both of those things turn me into the little girl that I was, sitting on the back porch waaaaiting and waiiiiiiting for him. Many times he didn’t come. He didn’t call either.
And the years came and went and he never fixed it. I don’t think he knows how. He doesn’t know how to be steady. To be unwavering in devotion. To call - EACH AND EVERY HOLIDAY. Or each week.
He plays at it if I make it fairly convenient for him. He comes over with a gift for you. Flirts with my mother. Says ‘Merry Christmas.’ But the truth is? It is far too late for him to make a habit of loving me.
This isn’t a bitter post. I’m not angry with him. My mom helped me keep an open heart by telling me that my father loves me with everything he has. “If he had more, he would give more,” she says. And he has done some amazing things - his car was the first one in my mother’s mother’s funeral procession. He showed up early. Sober. Honest.
He has given us many genetic gifts. Height. Curly hair. An evil, amused glint in our eye that can fend off an angry mob of truckers.
Also? His family is AWESOME. Oh, are they amazing. And very close.
But it isn’t enough. I’m out of the habit of being his daughter. The daily business of being his daughter.
I know him the way I know, say, Spike Lee. I know his basic bio. I know some of his work. I admire some of it. I LIKE Spike Lee. If he had a heart attack, I would say, “I hope Spike gets better.” And I would mean it. But then I would get back to wondering what you’re doing and trying to figure out if my mother actually knows how to work her iPad.
I am in the habit of loving you. I am in the habit of loving her. I am in the habit of loving your dad. Each day. Your maternal grandfather has become an abstract idea of a father to me.
I think if something happens to him, what I will miss most? I will miss his laugh, which, by the way is WONDERFUL. A ridiculous, contagious, loud, wheezing man-giggle that shakes his whole body.
But most of all, I would continue to mourn the dad that I could have had. And the daughter I could have been.