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I Knew You Wouldn't Come

I think someone should have guessed it when I was in Speech Class in first grade. I mean, really, I only stuttered on the letter "D'. Duh.

d-d-d-Dad-d-d-dy.

Some forty years later, Dad is tied with a wide web belt to a cushioned commode-cum-chair in the local hospital after his second stroke in four days. His entire left side, including his usually sharp-edged tongue, seems to have left the planet and he struggles to manage the simplest task: swallowing his own spittle. I have the uneviable chore of helping him eat his dinner, after my workday at a downtown health insurance company. No loss of irony there.

Dad was always the John Wayne-wannabe. Never sick, always lost in a fog between angry drunk and cranky old bastard. His joy was in his shed or garage or whatever room he could protect with brute yelling and dire threats in this maze of women he was forced to call 'family'. As if to add insult to the constant emotional injuries, Dad freely admitted that he worked the night shift at the defense plant so he could "get away from the rest of you idiots."

So, my paternal interractions were based on Mom pushing me through the swinging doors of the local bar, to search for my elusive father in the dark, stench of ciagrettes and Friday night left-overs or, even more likely, meeting with the wrath of my self-appointed God of the House because I had shreiked when my older sister popped out of a linen closet to scare me while Dad was sleeping in the afternoon.

I remember the one time my father kissed me on the cheek. I still have the photo of me, in my Holy Confirmation cap and gown, at age 12, looking at Dad fearfully out of the corner of my eye while I can hear Mom whining, "Oh come on! Kiss her for christs' sake, it's a big day." We both look real thrilled, Mom, thanks.

And now I am spooning some liver-colored mashed god-knows-what into my poor father's half-moon mouth while his only good hand trembles it's way to the pudding dish.

"Dad, quit it! I told you that you can't have the tapicoa until you eat at least half of this-um-dinner stuff."

He grunts his annoyance. The phone rings on the nightstand. It's Mom.

"Yeah, hi Ma. No, he's not so bad. He wants his pudding. I know, I know...I'm making him eat his dinner. Look, I gotta go , Mom. I'll call you later."

That's when I saw it. Dad had the spoon and was eating the damn tapioca pudding...all by himself.

"Dad, what are you doing?!? I thought you couldn't hold the spoon. I've been coming here everyday to feed you dinner and now I see you can do it all my yourself? Why didn't you tell me?" I raved at him in sheer exasperation.

Very quietly, with his bloodshot eyes downcast, my father mumbled, "I knew that if you didn't think I needed help you wouldn't come back to see me anymore."

Forgiveness is the art of simultaneously swallowing one's pride while offering one's heart.

"It's okay, Dad. I understand. I'm here. So show me how you eat, wise guy."

We both chuckled softly. And Dad ate the damn pudding first everyday till he died.

It's okay, Dad.

Comments
10 Comment count
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That is fantastic,

That is fantastic, Valorie.
I have tears in my eyes and am completely lost for words.
Thank you for your story.

Claire

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Wonderful

An excellent example. I enjoyed reading that even though I'm supposed to be working now. :)

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Loved your story. It

Loved your story. It reminded me of my own curmudgeonly but lovable father.

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Kinda like loving a

Kinda like loving a "junkyard dog"...I had to frequently remind myself that he was only acting out the behaviors he had been raised with as a farm boy in Upstate NY.

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Nice!

This is such a sweet story, thank you for sharing with us.

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WTG!

I love the detail in this wonderful, heartfelt story. The last five paragraphs are so strong and succinct. WTG!

B. Lynn Goodwin
www.writeradvice.com
Author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers

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How beautiful.

I wish I had had the same moment with my father.

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Exquisite Descriptions

I think you pegged that "aha" moment when faulty relationships can take a one-eighty. There are sometimes delightful opportunities of clairvoyance when in one split second we can become enlightened and open to the person sitting across the table from us. Reading your narrative about feeding your father, I had a deja vu. Six months before my father's death, I too found myself standing by his hospital bed feeding him tomato soup. Though decades of resentment on my part had eroded my part of our relationship, that moment of forgiveness and acceptance -- watching tomato soup dribble down his chin and noticing a familiar spark in his hazel eyes, one I remember as an adoring daughter -- had finally arrived. Thanks for sharing such an honest, poignant, yet funny entry.

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wonderful blog

What a wonderful moment. Thank you for sharing this, and I will put my novel, The Crying Tree, in the mail to you today, September 30th.

All my best

Naseem Rakha
THE CRYING TREE Broadway Books July, 2009
http://naseemrakha.com

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I think you hit the nail

I think you hit the nail right on the head. I could never seem to please my own father, no matter how hard I tried, and eventually gave up, just living according to the rules he had taught me (subject to modification). At his funeral, my mother told me that, in his eyes, I could do no wrong. That just wasn't the sort of thing a man who was born in Michigan and lived through a depression and a World War told anyone. It might make them satisfied with themselves, or something. I wish I had had that moment with my dad.