I know exactly what I’m supposed to write about in this post but I don’t want to. I know that I’m supposed to write about my father today with such clarity that there might as well be a syllabus sitting in front of me an a proctor wandering the room to ensure that I stay on topic. But there isn’t really a syllabus or a proctor and I don’t want to write about him. Instead I am sitting in the Tabor Space Coffee Shop, resting in quiet anonymity after coffee with friends. There are about a dozen people here, plus a few little ones playing, crying, scrambling, waving, and wondering about the bright screen on a few tables around the room. There is noise and activity, but none of these lovely individuals know me or the assignment that is before me. They might think I’m Facebooking, perhaps grading a paper, or maybe writing that illusive great American novel that I have heard so much about (once upon a time I thought there really was a book called “The Great American Novel” and tried to find it in the library, but no luck). They don’t know that I’m writing and writing without saying anything other than no, nyet, uh-uh, and other just as helpful rejection statements. Perhaps I should ask one of these toddlers for some tantrum lessons because my own process seems doomed to failure.
Why do I have this assumed assignment about my father? Because over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with students, co-workers, and friends that included this bizarre hole in my life. Just last night I had to dance around the topic twice as I attempted to explain with a smile on my face while I spent about 30 minutes weeping under a cross last fall rather than participating in a labyrinth with the rest of my department. The whole story is just too grey to understand. There is no black and white which is what verbal conversation demands. But print, especially the semi- anonymous nature of electronic print embraces the grey, perhaps even demands it as Pinterest fills in the 1,000s of words we can’t seem to find in our native tongues.
The black and white is easy: my father’s name is Bruce, he and my mother met at a costume party in college, my parents were married seven years, he remarried after their divorce, he had two more children, and he is living in Texas.
The grey is just grey: I don’t know my father’s middle name or how old he is, my parents met through a blind date where he was dressed as a pimp and my future mother a prostitute, my parents divorced because my father wanted to marry the woman he was having an affair with, my siblings are sweet and interesting individuals who know our father much better than I and bear much brighter scars (and whom I do not know as well as I would like because of time and distance), and my father may be dying in Texas.
See why I don’t want to write about him? This man is part of my DNA and part of my story, more by his absence than by his presence. He is the very identity of “What if…” Each time my mind and heart wander to him they return quickly, unsure how much to feel, how much to trust, how much to hope for. I hate the scars he has left on the rest of my family. I hate that he does not care about me; a fact proven by almost a year of silence after emails last spring. And I hate that I’m not going to get to understand why.
I love the rest of this family (which means yes, there are crazy people but they’re mine). I love that there have been other men in my life to show that this is not what a man, father, and person is supposed to be like. And I love that these scars do not define my entire person. And if I’m being honest, I love that if he reached out to me right now I would not turn him away, no matter the pain such an invitation guarantees.
So there is pain, confusion, love, acceptance, and always hope hiding at Tabor Space this afternoon.