I had just finished singing my plaintive song in Hebrew when I could hear my father, in the back of the auditorium, push his chair back, stand and clap loudly. I could hardly see him-the stage lights bright and blinding, limiting my vision to the first row or so. But my ears, and my heart-they could tell, they could see. My father, standing just for me, his gaze locked firmly to me, his heart full of his daughter.
We drove home that night, my face covered in pancake, so heavy it moved separate from my face. His face was full of pride, flushed with it, a smile genuine on his face, in his eyes for the first time in years. We stopped for burgers and fries, squished in costume and suit into a booth. It was the best dinner I might ever had, and we spent the rest of the drive up Hwy 2 in silence, the stars a smiling accompaniment bouncing off the calm river beside us.
My father loved me.
I knew I was adopted from, forever, like a broken record in my head I knew this like I knew I had to pee sitting down. It was part of me-an important part of me sure, but just something else interesting and different. But ultimately, it didn’t matter. There was no divide, no division between my parents and I, no worry about flesh and blood not being theirs. They loved me, and I was theirs. No question, no subtle other meaning. I was their daughter, and they loved me.
My father especially, seemed to hold my heart. Winks and treats, patience to teach. I would follow him everywhere, and believed him when he claimed he’d pull the moon out of the sky for me. He was magic, he was vision, he was a world I couldn’t wait to explore and touch, his was that omnipotent god of our childhoods, knowing where Halley’s Comet had come from and how to make a sponge look like swampland.
In the land of my youth, my family glowed with simple love and contentment. I remember being happy-plainly happy in that place, that time which stretches and sometimes reaches for me. My mother the rock, my father the magician. Wrapped in their arms, in the space their breath made real, I never felt without, or unloved. It might just have been the only place I ever felt real.
I heard the noise, a dripping sound, persistent. I woke up further from a deep sleep, shaking my head. I opened my half finished door, the one which stuck at the top corner and needed to be sanded down, and found my father, pissing on the floor, a small river pouring into my room, splashing onto the pile of tapes by the door.
“You vile, repugnant little man!” I screamed, “What are you doing?!?!” The words, the formed themselves so perfectly and clearly on my lips, flowing out on a ribbon of hate, of anger and shame.
My screams woke him from his stupor, the drunkenness rolling off his face. “Sorry, “he muttered”, “I thought this was the bathroom.”
I screamed for him to clean it up, and now. I screamed out my rage, my sickness with the situation, my exhaustion with dealing with a drunk after everything else we’d suffered.
“I’m sorry,”he kept saying “I’m sorry.”
After Mom died Dad kept his distance. I don’t remember him touching me much, if at all. He threw himself back into work, trying to keep busy, and inadvertently kept him away from me. I assume now, from this distance, that it just hurt too much, but then, I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t see past the grey haze of grief that kept us all numb and in our corners. In shock, in pain, frozen.
I’d cry by myself, for hours when the ache was too much. My fears, while not exotic, still terrified me. I envisioned my father dying, my Daddy! and being alone. One night, finally, my father heard my cries and sobs, and called me downstairs. He held me for the first time in months, and my body nearly fell, so relieved it was to have someone finally touch me, aside from the doctor or hairdresser.
“I’m not going anywhere!” he joked gently, “Nothing can kill your old man!”
I stared at the wood panelling as he said this, his arms rough around my shoulders, and wished, fervently wished it wasn’t a joke, that he could speak plainly, tell me he loved me, tell me he’d be there.
“We ok now?”
A little while later, a book about grieving appeared on my bed, my father acknowledging my need to read through things. He wouldn’t touch me for a long time after this, dropping my hand if I grabbed his, freezing up if I leaned into him. After awhile I stopped trying, retreated. I didn’t let anyone touch me for a long time after that.
They were doing a Midsummer’s Night Dream in the park, and he agreed to come with me after work, smiling and saying “Hey, that sounds like fun!” We walked to the park, laughing, enjoying the night. We sat on lush grass as the performers continued on in front of the crowd, smiles and peace.
The skies opened with a hideous roar, and the rain came down.
He didn’t get angry. He wasn’t annoyed. He shrugged, looked at me, grinning, and said “Guess we get wet then.”
We walked home, giggling, down 6 blocks, his newspaper ruined, my shirt sticking to me. All I can remember is his smile in the rain, the shelter in that moment, healing us a little as we learned life did, and would go on.
And he was proud of me then, and I him.
I show him my writing, and his heart is near to burst. I show him my firstborn, and his eyes loose some of the hurt, the years of ache slipping off.
“You did good kid.”