When I had lunch with my father for the first time in years, I showed up with no hope for anything less than a migraine, my tone sarcastic and inappropriate, many jokes right on the edge of my tongue.
It is just my way, a nervous tick, bizarre and dark my humor comes to protect me in times of humiliation, terror, and even when death awaits, I can’t help it.
I get the giggles.
The first thing that surprised me was how I had ever forgotten how hard I make my dad laugh. It was strange to have forgotten the way he laughs at my jokes, his hand slapping his knee, the way he grabbed his side as if it were literally hurting.
I missed that.
I asked him if he had a 23 page nuker letter for me, partly to test the waters, partly to make a dig, partly to judge, something I had seem to have become numb to doing. He laughed.
He had aged, white hairs were more visible, a heart attack now ensured an “Ipod” be sewn into him, and he seemed immediately different, soft, much more gentle and patient, like he perhaps had a story of his own.
I wasn’t even skeptical or disrespectful as I had been for so long.
I was plain curious.
It was so odd to be his daughter again, like I had rented him or something, all of the sudden this man I had so grieved as a father was putting gas in my tank till full, checking if I had a seatbelt, not letting me pay for my soda.
I felt nothing.
When I walked into the cabin, I had to die laughing at his bachelor life, the same damn exercise bike still in place but with a mound of clothes covering it to the floor.
I stopped dead in my tracks at his pointing out the book that “changed his life” but doesn’t remember, the 4 agreements I nodded, but It wasn’t that. I saw the books next to it, the ones he hadn’t read but I owned, outlined to death and nearly destroyed after dropping it in the bathtub once.
“Dad, are you reading this?”
He squinted two inches away, trying to remember, but I knew that no way did he find this book on his own.
“My therapist has me reading those, which I am going to start,” a pause, then the kicker, “You know you come from Narcisstic parents.”
“Wait. He even pronounced the word correctly, and was instructed in therapy to read the book that had just recently become my Bible?”
I was feeling nervous now, for it was clear he was not even trying to impress me or make a story, but I had been told he had scammed that Dr. and wasted his time and patience, taking his money instead of using it for therapy.
This began many nervous pause and with a question, my breath trying hard not to show my anticipation.
This was it, the moment to get my questions answered, the ones I stared at in the middle of the night.
“Hey Dad. What ever happened with that grant you got that paid for your insurance?”
He didn’t skip a beat.
“Well, I was without a job and had no insurance because in one month of having my first silent heart attack, my insurance went up from 330 to over 900 dollars. There was just no way. I begged the doc to not make me, you know how I feel about needles.”
I let out my breath finally, my mind spinning.
“I didn’t even ask but the Doc went in his drawer and pulled one document to sign, telling me I qualified.”
Then I realized the ridiculous fiction I passed off as the Bible.
Like a disciple in a cult, I had been repeating that he got pissed his insurance wouldn’t get paid for by a relative, dropped his insurance on purpose to piss that relative off and having no job or money, he had gotten a bloody grant? He had to have scammed it I nodded in agreement, the other heads in unison.
I had been there five minutes and already I could feel in the way he talked and moved, his focus on his Four Agreements book he displayed were one of a billion web shots flashing thru my mind.
I had been right. And oh, horribly wrong, but RIGHT, but how? I had just been certain I had been right. I didn’t know right could feel so wrong.
How could I be angry at my family when I had participated in the same alienation that had been done to him?
And oh God, the blogs, all the public blogs I had written!
I couldn’t go back now, I thought, guilt rising like a hot air balloon.
He had lived here alone, totally ostracized, for YEARS, and I expected him not to change at ALL, not even a teeny bit? How could this have happened? I know enough just being alive I can transform in a day, a moment, and I wrote him off like a bad check.
I decided to ask a lot of questions, strange ones to him I know, and I asked in my poker face just for my own observation, my heart pounding.
I didn’t even have to hear the answers to the questions I had just known would destroy us before we had the chance to start. I knew in five minutes I was in trouble for this wasn’t the man I remembered, not at all.
I was sick as he chatted nonchalantly, this man I had been so afraid of had big tears in his eyes because we were listening to Adele, who always made him cry. He told me about his anger and what that had been like to deal with, how he had just graduated to acceptance of never seeing his children again, how that broke him and he only wanted more than anything just to be able to hug his sons, know his grandchildren.
He spoke of my mom being his best friend, his entire identity had been as mom’s husband, my dad, and without us, he was nothing.
He had to have this lesson to teach him who he was.
I knew my father and I were alike, but in this moment I saw he understood me.
He understood that to work and work for acceptance and respect to sabotage that same love you wanted again and again, along with his communication problems, he had hit rock bottom.
And he needed to.
And so did I.
I didn’t like myself suddenly.
I could feel my stomach tightening, everything in my Spirit saw that I was wrong, and it had almost been three years and I had judged him harshly, removed all contact and yes, he agrees I should have. He had been toxic and in the middle of a horrible divorce, had gone nuts, knew it, owned it.
I hadn’t anticipated that.
I remember that passage from the Bible as a little girl something like, “To enter the kingdom of God you have to become as a little child,” and that was the second harsh lesson of this day.
I hugged him goodbye, him not asking for anything from me and I didn’t care what anyone thought, not anyone for my father had taught me a valuable lesson this day. I had nothing to teach or give, nothing and his inner work humbled me, my pride and investment in being “right” or not being “accepted” had blinded me in a war that had never been mine to fight.
I had been a part of the ugliest divorce in which the children were the missiles, and I had to forgive that. I had to forgive him. I had to forgive myself. And like he said, I had to forgive mom. But first, I loaded Kat and Lola in the car and my tummy turned in anxiety for I knew they had not seen him for years and what would I say? How would I tell them?
I got out the first sentence.
“Girls, we are going to see Papa…”
They interrupted me.
“His colors are good now, mommy?” Kat asked with big wide eyes.
“Papa misses me?” says Lola, and together when I nodded, tears flowing down my cheeks, I didn’t have to ask them forgiveness or explain my reasoning, they looked at each other, squealed, hugged and told me to turn up the radio, putting their hands up in the air like we were on a roller coaster.
And so a child shall lead them.