‘Well, what do you think?’ he asked
‘You look old.’ The only thing I could think to say
It had been almost 8 years since I last saw my father. Now that he stands before me, I can’t decide if I am dreaming or even how I should be feeling. Suddenly I am not a teenager; I am a little boy, the little boy he left, the one he did not want anymore.
‘I love you daddy’ I wish I could scream out.
Instead, the child me cowers before him. He is a god; he is larger than life, this man, the one standing before me aged. That could not be my father, my father could not get old; he was beyond that. Long gone were his signature cowboy boots. He no longer drove the Harley I remembered so clearly.
Still this had to be the man, wearing that baby blue button down shirt, sleeves messily rolled and blue jeans a look he carried in all his photographs even from my birth.
He shook my hand; his wife hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. I was not expecting this and it would have been awkward from family much less a complete stranger. This confused me and made me very uncomfortable. She would try to come on to me later, even though I was underage.
Still, I was transfixed on him.
‘He dyed his hair’ I think ‘When did that happen?’
He would deny it later, but it was obvious.
So many promises the man made. I could forgive him for what he had done; it was water under the bridge. It was not even that bad, I was probably making it worse in my head.
That is it; I was just making it up. It was not that bad, it couldn’t have been.
He showered us with gifts, new clothes, a new computer. Things I had never dreamed of having my entire life. The child me lit up when I saw him walk in the door with a new Playstation 2, they had just been released that very day.
Suddenly I was three again, watching Daddy walk in with the newest game console, the Nintendo; I never could beat Mario brothers that was my fathers love. It was gifts; love had a price tag and he gladly paid.
This was love; it had to be. Love could be bought; forgiveness was just a videogame away, a new pair of shorts. Shoes I never had growing up, my own bike, something I would want most of my childhood and never have. This was love.
The luster soon wore off.
‘Make me something to eat’ He says to me as I am in my bedroom doing homework. He is busy watching TV. His wife already tired of dealing with him refuses; we are cheap labor, but it was better than not having him love me. So I do it, night after night. Do home repairs/upgrades, I built a room in the garage just for him, helped the people he hired with the roofing project.
No problem, I would do anything.
I finally woke to my reality one fateful night.
In the living room his wife, watching TV as she usually did all day was arguing with him. She didn’t want to go into the bedroom.
‘You’re hurting me’ she screamed as I watched the man I always knew pull her out of the chair she was in then drag his wife on the carpet by her feet into the bedroom.
‘There you are Daddy’ I think
Two weeks later after the trauma, I pack my bags and emancipate myself at 16. The process was long and there was a lot of hurdles but I was soon free and living in sort of a halfway house set up for teens transitioning from foster care to adulthood.
The first morning there, I woke up; walked into the kitchen, sat next to my new roommate and we talked. He told me a little about himself and I told him a little about me. We didn’t need to say much, we both knew why we were there.
I had peanut butter captain crunch, I will never forget that. Child me wept at the loss, even after all that, I still kept in touch with him, I’m a sucker for promises. One-day years and years later, he ends the phone call in a way he never had before.
‘I love you’ He says
I thought I would break down in tears, finally hearing that for the first time in my life from him. Instead, I wanted to vomit.
‘Okay, Bye’ I say
He told me never to talk to him about a year later.
That is the only type of love I have ever known, the type easily taken away.
My father will be put in his grave with many, many secrets, half brothers I will never meet, my mother, the rest of my family, his brother and my Uncle. But the one I am most interested in is:
What was wrong with me?