Thursday, December 17, 2009
Today is my father's birthday. Or it would be if he were alive. I wanted to make some kind of tribute to him, share some special story to commemorate his life. Where was that story about the night we talked on the porch in the dark? I could envision it on its yellowed paper with half-faded words. But I couldn't find it! Where could it be? I pulled out a stack of manila folders and started to rifle through the many papers. Gotcha! There, stuck smack in the middle of last year's Spanish handouts lay the coveted paper. What was I thinking? This valuable, sentimental journal could have been lost!
I reread my words. Ugh! My writing is definitely lacking. I feel very critical of it. And yet...even with the lack of style and it being mostly prose, it's a part of my journey, both in writing and of the time I spent with my dad. So I decided to present it exactly as I wrote it way back then. All I want to convey is the special moments I shared with my father that night.
I talked with my father tonight. It seemed like magic. I was a little girl again listening to my hero dream. The night was still, almost stagnant. There weren't even any mosquitoes buzzing. I felt we were given a tribute of silence. It didn't even matter what we said when we did speak as long as we kept talking. His voice, with his reserve broken down, sounded dreamy, slow with intermittent silences accenting his speech. At first I felt anxious to say "the right thing," to keep the conversation alive, but I ran out of things to say. I ached for this mood-this rapport-to continue. that night we talked about trees, his business and his life.
"Dad, how long did it take you to build up your business."
"All my life...it ain't much, but it's all mine." Slow, ponderous the words came. All at once, I saw his soul!
I remembered back to when I was a young girl. It was a long trip home from Brockway. It was just beginning to get dark. Dad was driving and Mom was dozing on the passenger's side. The two boys--my brothers--were both sleeping, and my sister feigned sleep. (I knew because she rapped me when I bumped her). I sat in the middle of the back seat, scooting up on the hump, hands resting on the front seat cushion. The radio was tuned to a scary horror story. I loved this radio station and listened in rapt attention. Why did the sailor murder old Mrs. Hampton? Dad listened too. The story lasted another hour...and finally the conclusion-so unexpected it took my breath away! Dad flipped the station to a country and western and the mood lightened.Everyone began to stir. I regarded them jealously. It had been so peaceful with just Dad and me.
Then, with martyr-like calm, I decided it was my duty to keep Dad awake for the rest of the trip (I laugh now but back then, I took this self-appointed task very seriously). Happily, I watched the others drop back off to sleep again, but not me! Even if I felt really tired, I wouldn't be disloyal to him! Dad was very patient, although now I think he might have preferred my silence. He never told me to be quiet. These private moments between father and daughter were very special to me. No one could intrude. Of course, in spite of all my good intentions, I fell asleep. After all, I was only a little girl.
Tonight I felt the same bond as when I listened to the radio in the car. I still want to please him. We're both "dreamers" of sorts. I think Dad knows that deep down, it's the dreamer in us that links us together. I don't think he'd ever admit to something that sentimental, just as I'd never voice it aloud.
Man has always held sacred ideals--keeping them pure and untouched. But like glass, ideals easily shatter, leaving man to pick at the marred pieces of perfection. That fragile bond is my ideal between my dad and I. Rather than have my illusion destroyed, I hug my secret close within myself - that we are both dreamers - the best kind of people to be. Our silence allows our bond to continue long after I've gone inside.
Just before I go to sleep I think "Wow, my dad is so cool! How many fathers have spent a lifetime building their business and seem so content?" And how many daughters dream that their father's business will last for the rest of their lifetime because it makes him that happy?