I write a lot about my mother.
Probably not a whole crazy-much-bunch that some might, but I write a lot more about her than I do my father and some (HI DAD!) might think it’s a bit unfair. Do I hate my father? Do I have some sort of horrible scarring trauma about him and the varying reincarnations of his mustache and beard that send me into shrieking nightmares every night?
No, not exactly.
You see, when I was a little girl, I was a Daddy’s girl. My mother and I did not get a long, at all. I was a horrid, mean, spiteful, awful, stupid child (which explains a lot to you, or it should–now that I am grown) and I knew my mother loved me and I knew I loved my mother. But we couldn’t occupy the same space for more than an hour before we were at one another throats and that’s bad. Because. Well. You know. She had to raise me for at least two decades off and on.
My father and I…? Though I still had unbelievably stupid and childish brain-dumbs, were nearly inseparable. I tottered around behind him when I was a little girl becoming a secondary tiny chubby shadow. My father? He could do no wrong, ever. He was my hero. As a little girl he was endlessly tall and glittering polished in his military uniform that he wore every day. I could look up and up and up and up and there seemed to be no end to him. He blocked out the sun on days it would beat cheerily down and blind me. He protected me from the monsters under my bed and reminded me there was no such thing as the boogie man and would you PLEASE stop asking me for water, you JUST used the bathroom–Melissa, for the love of Christ, please go to bed. Daddy needs to get up in the morning!
He had the Dad Arm down to an art form. When the brakes went on it didn’t matter if I was in a car seat with fifty two straps and six belts with complicated code-dependent locks. The Dad Arm from the driver’s seat would whip out immediately strangling me with love and care.
My father was--is–loud. And it’s not because now his hearing is going and sometimes he forgets to turn his hearing aids up and TALKS VERY CLEARLY SO HE CAN HEAR WHAT HE IS SAYING TO YOU. You could hear him from outside the house when his hearing was fine–you can still listen to him speak well before getting into the house.
He is loud and boisterous. Animated. He tells you stories and can do so for hours. When he does he doesn’t just use his arms or hands. He’ll stand up out of the chair, couch, bench, wherever he is and wave his arms, stomping around. His eyes will glitter with barely held in mirth and he’ll twist his whole body into every word he says, legs and arms out to mimic the current plot. As well as being loud, he has the most colorful fucking language I’ve ever heard.
He taught me–not willingly or knowingly–how to cuss out shit so creatively that sometimes I even marvel at my own (picture me making the finger quotes here) “colorful” speech rolling out of my face. He picked this up I think from a few places. 1.) He was a boy at one time and boys have a sort of fascination with creative cursing. I like to think that was part of the reason, anyway. And 2.) he was part of the Canadian Military for nearly three decades. (Or maybe longer. Less. It’s hard to tell time when you’re five and remember it again when you are 30.)
And so I was drawn to my father more so than my mother, through no fault of hers and plenty of mine. I believed that he could do no wrong. He could, single-handedly pick me up and put me on his shoulders. So why couldn’t he single handedly pick the world up and move it? That’s the logic behind little girls and their fathers; through their eyes there is nothing they cannot do.
Then I grew up.
I don’t need to go into the mess that was being a teenager and young adult. I did things I wasn’t proud of. I lost the starry-eyed wonder of youth and gave a harty fuck you world! to everything and everyone, thinking I knew best.
My father was just my father. A man who couldn’t possibly understand what it was like being a teen-aged/young adult girl. A man who made mistakes and who couldn’t know what I was going through. Because he certainly was never a teen. No, my father came sprung from the loins of his mother full-grown. He could not possibly understand anything. Why listen to his advice about all this stuff I was going through he’d already gone through?
And my father stood in my shadow.
He stood in the wake of all the dreams he had for me, all these dreams for his little girl that he worked so hard to build. All these dreams that he got up early in the morning for, put on a perfectly pressed uniform and put his broken feet into polished, non-supportive military issued black boots. All these dreams he comforted himself with every day he saluted some bastard who screamed at the lower ranks, because if some higher-up screwed up it was always some poor fucking bastard down the rank line that had to stand there and SIR YES SIR, SORRY SIR and like it. Because it paid the bills. It put food on the table. It bought furniture for a house which your wife dreamed of having.
Dreams that he built which I painstakingly, purposefully tore down in my childish, immature hands.
I think it’s some where in this time that my mother got sicker and sicker. I’d run away from all the problems I’d caused all by myself and my father’s eyes didn’t glitter with mirth so much. He didn’t laugh as much. He grew a line between his eyebrows that appears now every time he looks at a medical bill, or listens to the doctors talk about my mother–or whenever he looks at me and thinks I’m not paying attention. Because he sees all of the things I could have been and wasn’t.
I made the same mistakes he did. And he stood in my shadow and loved me anyway.
I don’t write about my father very often because I am afraid.
I am afraid that anything I write wouldn’t do the man justice. He has gone to places in this world under his military service that I will never know or understand. He has done things and said things, been forced to work in filth–coated in car grease and ducking his head under the gaze of all important assholes who think that because a man worked once in a uniform he should be used to being barked at. I am afraid that I would disappoint him again.
And there’s nothing more in this universe that would crush me to pieces now–knowing that I’d disappoint him all again–because the truth is, even though my mother and I have made up and grown up and I’ve fessed up to being the most awful child on the planet…
My father is still my hero.
He will always be my hero.
I will always be a little girl standing in his shadow when I am near him.
I will always love him–yes, dad, even when you embarrass me at the mall with ohmuhgawd, friends to see–even when you wander the house in your tighty-whities with your hair stuck up all over the place groggily asking me if I made any coffee. Even when I talk to you via the internet and video conference and you lean over to TALK TO ME VERY LOUDLY. I WILL STILL LOVE YOU.
He is endlessly tall and forever strong in my eyes, and I am so proud and grateful for having him as my father.
I love you, Dad.