“What about Father’s Day?” a response from a friend when I mentioned that I was aching to write something but having a hard time finding any inspiration or subject matter. “Well, I don’t really understand it” my reply after spending several minutes trying to find some pang of something; emotion, sentiment, rage, disappointment…anything when letting the word father swim around in my head, bang about in my chest. Nothing, or more confusion, more wonder then anything else. I’ve seen plenty of fathers, devoted and strong, loving and playful, terrifying and admirable. I’ve seen it, maybe touched it a bit being witness to the job Carl has done being a profoundly wonderful father to our son but to know, to truly know what it feels to have a father? Absolutely no comprehension….
“How was it this time?” my mother’s voice strained, painted with palpable panic and concern as I hooked my little fingers to the doorframe of the car before giving my lower half a wide swing which would lift me off the ground, giving my back a midair twist before sailing into the passenger seat, the thud from my wee rump just hard enough to force the air from the seat cushion and making a little queefy sound that always, always made me giggle. The knot in my tummy tugging at my insides as I did my best to boldly lie to my mother’s face, “It was fun! What did you do last night? Did you finish your book? What did you have for dinner?” my words rapid fire in her direction, a defensive offence of sorts as I tugged at the car door pulling it shut. How could I tell her? How could I look into those big sad blue eyes, the ones with the semi-permanent lake of tears that always seemed to be pushed up right against her eyelids, just waiting to be set free. How could I tell her that I spent the night pressed firmly into the corner of the dusty and herby smelling couch in my father’s living room watching as he every so often pulled his affected head off the dining room table, bits of pasta and tomato sauce still stuck to his face from when he slipped off into his needle induced happy place during our father daughter dinner…watched as he rose, made those awful guttural sniffing sounds before scratching his neck and resting his head down again.
I remember a fierce sense of guilt with being at my father’s, which only happened, as I can recall anyway, a few times. The drive over was thickly coated in wash of absolute dread, not mine but my mother’s. Her fear, anger, anxiety and likely jealousy, making even taking in a breath in that VW Beatle a laborious task. I would twitch, sweat and stammer away with five year old nonsense to try and lighten the load…my load. From the second I stepped into my father’s apartment I could feel my mother’s ache, her heart stabbing pain and seething rage, the twist of the heavy lock on his front door no match for her voice in my head and the layer of culpability that left its indelible stain on me. The only thing able to jolt me from my heavyhearted sense of guilt, the terrifying sound of teeth clamping down too hard on a fork, the eye lids too heavy to keep open, the nod and the deafening sound of cutlery crashing against a porcelain plate, an upturned glass, my heart creeping up my throat and into my ears, pounding against my eardrums as I leapt from my seat across from him and ran to that corner of the couch, looking back just in time to see his head of long hair land halfway on his plate. Pulling my knees tight to my chest and humming as I rocked myself back and forth to stay awake, and to quiet the screaming silence. How? How would I tell her all of that? Why tell her that, she was hurting enough. The rocking, the couch, the thuds and heart beats, the lies she needed me to keep telling her, those I could take, spaghetti on the other hand, never took that again…
“Well he got on the bus. He didn’t look good, I don’t know if he’ll make it to rehab.” My sister updating me on our brother, the only one we have and the one she had just shipped off to some state in the middle, away from us and near his daughter. He had one job to do in order to keep a roof over his head, not live on the streets and be given food and guidance, don’t use, drugs or alcohol, he couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. My sweet sister hearing the same excuses and being subjected to the same accusatory and defensive bullshit I’ve been hearing my whole life…her heart maybe less damaged, or just bigger, she keeps listening, I on the other hand, am done watching him try and kill himself…seen this movie already, hated the ending. I knew the last time I saw Mike, frail frame weighing less than 100 pounds and looking like he was seconds from dying in a hospital room, I knew from the brief look we gave each other that we would never see each other again. I made whatever kind of peace you can with that heavy bit of sadness and walked away…now I find myself thinking of him more than I did before he left, not about him as much as his daughter. A sinking feeling really, that he may bang against his plate in her home, in her heart, and I can only wish the best, for the both of them. I chose to let him be….let him go long ago.
“Let me guess, the salad bar” Mom in a semi-playful tone as the server at Marie Calendars asked for my order. She was right, it was salad bar, was always salad bar whenever it was an option. I used to tag it on to whatever sandwich or gawd awful steak at The Sizzler, neither of which I would eat, (big arguments those) because I was stuffed to my lobes, (I have ‘em but you gotta flip me over to find them) but eventually I skipped the pretense and boldly, excitedly answered the, “And what can I get for you?” with a loud, “I’ll be having the salad bar!” and got my sassy, swishy walk on, long “Oh look at me go” look over my shoulder back at the table as I made my way to the long treasure chest of cold and crispy goodness while the others sat and waited for their stoopid, warm, and made for them food. Chose feeling fancy and in charge….
Goes way back my love for the bar of salad, so far back in fact that I can actually remember my mother having to take me, rest me on her hip and let me point to the various items I wanted. Kinda weird thinking of that now, can’t remember another time I was held in my mother’s arms, not that she didn’t want to hold me but because I was uncomfortable being scooped up, held, off my feet or off the ground with someone else in charge of moving my parts around, even then. Salad bar, there was a place, a magic place full of unlimited food, (an idea so alien to me that it took years to not feel like I was stealing when I went for a second plate) that I could float around, high off the ground and high on the very idea of me picking what was about to happen. Sort of the only time it happened that picking for myself stuff. The only time I can remember filling myself, both actually and emotionally, with my choices back then…million miles away from upturned glasses, funny herb smelling couches, palpable Volkswagen anxiety and spaghetti.
Mounds of fresh green lettuces, firm and tangy beans, spicy hoops of red onion, bouncy and flavorful hard boiled eggs, sweet and sour strips of pickled beets, briny black olives, garlicky croutons, earthy sunflower seeds, a sparse smattering of shriveled but sweet raisins and a generous blanket of creamy, sharp, nose widening blue cheese dressing. Me, this was me in charge of my moving parts. In charge of what was going to happen even if it only lasted the 40 or so minutes it took to get through dinner. The sadness in the car, the tummy sickening nod, the guilt, the thuds and nights with my knees dug deep in my chest, the given parts of a life I walked into…this bar of salad business a glimpse…a hint of what can and will happen when I get to choose and just how refreshingly sweet it could feel.
“Sam, come taste this wine” Randy’s boomingly warm voice both a source of welcome and absolute fear. The way he called me to taste wines, the way he smiled off my brisk and rather shitty responses to his continued efforts to share wine, his love, with me. That first glass of Zind Humbrecht, golden, sweet, powerful enough to rest me upon its hip, Randy’s hand in the small of my back as he lead me to the salad bar. The oily textured white wine filling and awakening my palate, his face always across from mine as I worked my sassy, swishy walk across the globe of wine. I don’t know father but I now know nurturing. I now know passion, dedication to work and relationships, utter devotion and pride. I know a world of food beyond the crunchy bits stuffed into the ever vanishing bars of salad, I know how to feel good about myself, feel proud of myself and that I learned from that warm Randy paw in the small of my back, that big smile and the occasional bite of, “Quit being a dumb ass” he gives me when he sees his “little girl” stumbling or being an asshole. I chose Randy…..or maybe he and wine chose me.
I don’t understand Father’s Day. Maybe don’t get what father really means, least not in a context that fits into traditional definitions and expectations. I’m okay with that. Might have missed some stuff but now, now I have this willingness to be hoisted up, carried around and lead to the next thing that is going to make me work my sassy swish walk. Thanks to Randy’s warm smile and repeated choosing, his banging heads with me drowning out that heart stopping clank of silverware against porcelain. To feel so safe, wanting to please but safe, to be in love and alive in a way that couldn’t have been fathomable before him, shan’t be forgettable because of him. The people I’ve met, the voices that are now in my ear each and every day…this voice of mine he helped me find, the flavors, scents, sights, moments that caused me to suck my breath deep into my chest with shock, awe and sheer gratitude. The pride I get to wear each and every day I walk in the store he lets me be and intricate part of, the one he lets me sass and swish away in the front of….well I don’t know what father feels like but I know what true love is, I chose this and would over and over again. From the very deepest part of this silly heart of mine, I thank you for that Randoo…
Not sure that I will ever be on board or acutely aware of tradition, not sure if that is a curse or a blessing but, I keep thinking about a very late night, heavily booze soaked conversation with a rather Fancy Pants man, one that most would crave swapping life placement with, his smirk digging deeper lines in his tanned and lived in face as I goofily stumbled through our chance meeting. His deep eyes swallowing me in big thick hunks, my awkwardness shedding with each sentence as I scrunched up my face, went mug to mug with this renowned expert and only backed down when his honey soaked voice said, “Miss Samantha, you are delightfully unbound by convention”….exhale.
All of this
Your willingness to hear
Cheer me on
Come here and visit me…
Randy, Michael, Carl, Ron, Jeremy, Eric, John, Charlie, Thomas, Anthony, Kermit, Alfonso, Wayne, Winey, Don, Joe, Kevin, Bill, Ed, Andy, Rinaldo, Jason, Stephen, Robert…all of you fantastically loving and supportive men, (And yes, I know I left like 100 of you out but don't think I don't think of you) I want you to know, own and know, just how much you mean and have changed my life. I wouldn’t be me without you and each tiny piece of you I get to touch is like fingers dug deep into my spine, pushing me to boldly blurt out what I want, sachet about and feel like your little princess, in thickly muddy boots. Never in a million years thought I would love that feeling but…it’s my crunchy bit of chosen so thank you.
Happy Father’s Day all
I love you..
I know how to love because of You…..
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