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And So They Met

In Non-Fiction, Personal, Writing on September 1, 2015 at 10:10 pm

How She Met Her Father, Part 4.  See Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3.

Two months had passed since her graduation.  Against all expectation, he had actually shown up.  Late – sneaking in a side door once the ceremony had already begun – and empty handed, but he was there.  Afterwards, waiting out back of the school near the parking lot, sending in his youngest child, her half brother, to get her.  Awkward side hugs, awkward small talk as if they had known each other from years ago.  Since then, her sisters requested visits more often, explaining “Daddy wants to see you, and he’ll meet you at our house.”  Sometimes he was there already, clutching a beer.  Sometimes they would call him once or twice, then have to pick him up from whatever friend’s house where he had started drinking.  Sometimes, though not often, he would already be too drunk to make it at all.

It wasn’t hard to put together the bits and pieces of information she had heard over the years, now combined with first hand experience, to reach the conclusion that he had a serious problem.  But nobody dare say anything to him about it.  You just don’t do that to Daddy… But he wasn’t her “daddy.”  He was just any other man, whom she may resemble more than she expected, with whom she shares genetics, but he was not the one in pictures that she was holding on to so tightly at 9 months old while figuring out the balancing act that is walking.  He was not the one changing diapers, or teaching her tricks on how to shoot a perfect basket, or taking the fish off her hook while she excitedly waited near a bucket of water to watch it be plop in.  No, she felt it deep inside.  She would give him a chance at some kind of relationship, but it would never be that one.  And that’s why she didn’t hesitate when he made a half-hearted drunken joke of how disappointed she must have been upon meeting him.  She responded with “At first? No. You weren’t drunk the first time I met you.”  Sisters’ jaws hit the floor.  He laughed it off while chugging the rest of his Bud Light.  Then he stopped her in the hall when no one else was near and said, “here, girl. Take this with you when you go away to college,” and slipped a tattered $50 bill into her palm. 

In 18 years all she had gotten from him was denial, avoidance, side eyes from people who knew him, whispers from other kids about how she didn’t even know her own family, and a $50 bill.  She thanked him anyways while briefly considering if he referred to her only by “girl” as an old southern term of endearment or if it was because he was too afraid or still couldn’t bring himself to say her actual name. That $50 bill gave him bragging rights for the few remaining visits of the summer.  He made excuses to go to nearby convenience stores that were owned by his friends and had to stop by people’s houses to and from these stores.  All his daughters were asked to go with him, and as soon as the engine was off all were ushered out of the car where “his youngest daughter” was shown like a prize pony.  Proud father, he was.  She did have to give him credit for admitting to her mother in a private conversation that it was all her doing that their daughter turned out so well.

He called her a couple months after she had moved to college.  It was a Saturday, barely 1:30pm.  He was already drinking, to “get his blood flowing.”  He made promises of taking her out to dinner when his job put him near her town, or even helping to buy her a car because he didn’t like the idea of her being stranded.  Another call came 6 months later after hearing about a college student in a neighboring town being raped while on a late evening jog, to make sure she was okay.  More promises of dinners and coming to visit her.  Then the calls started coming in only at Christmas to wish her well and let her know that her sister had a gift from him.  The gifts were always purchased by his girlfriend, who was not fond of her, and were always shirts that were 2 sizes too large or too small.  By the end of her college career, contact continued to decrease.  It felt more normal to not have him a part of her life than it did to force strained interactions.

Well into her adult life, she never heard from him at all.  She wondered to herself if she was a bad person to not make more of an effort to keep constant communication.  Then one day, her phone buzzed and his name appeared on the caller id.  When she answered, he asked for someone else before realizing he had called the wrong number.  He made a failed attempt to recover by quickly gushing how he had finally gotten in touch with her after trying for “so long.”  He asked if she was still at the same job she had several years ago when they last talked, not remembering what that job was.  He asked about her wedding, which she reminded him had not happened yet because she was only recently engaged.  Then he ended the conversation.

And then she knew.  The strained obligation of conversation wasn’t just on her end.  She had done her part.  She had given it a chance, with no real expectations, and she no longer had to wonder anymore.

Copyright © 2015

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