There are many movies about fathers, good dads and SOBs...tear jerkers and comedies. When I saw the post over at The Slack (God, you know you've "made it" when your blog name can be referred to so...) I knew. It's time to speak of the old man.
Look at him - the entertainer even before he wore long pants. Sigh...Where to begin? I always seem to start in the middle - when he wasn't there - when I think about him. He was adopted by Oma and Opa so we've no real clue about his family. My sister thinks that perhaps there was a disgraced relation who gave him up to be raised quietly. German, you see, and very pragmatic about those things.
I know he was a Navy man when he and mom wed. It was a small affair. And daughters were born one after another. Including me. And then one final last ditch attempt and BANG. His son. His only son after 4 girls. He went by "Prince". Which means, of course, that we had to torment him whenever possible. Just to keep things even.
At any rate being a young man and father didn't suit him, I think. All his life he'd been before the crowd in one way or another. Gymnastics at one point - he can still lift hover in a chair by hand and arm strength alone as though yet on the rings high in the air. And the accordion always. Suffice to say he was drawn to the stage all his life. I remember best his piano playing. Always tinkling in the back of my mind. And his feet - always dancing, moving.
It is from him I received the gift of words, the love of music and art. From him the intelligence, too. What little I have I credit to him. But I also lay at his feet some blame for not being there when it could have done me some good. We try to move past it, don't we? To take on our own shoulders the blame for the wrong in our lives. But there is still that petulant child inside - "If only..." it whines. And mine sometimes cries loudly.
But I recall clearly that when I truly needed him he was there. The two instances, actually, both related, always stand out for me when I think of my father. He was in no position to take on a teenager when I reached out to him from a palatial life in Alexandria. But he agreed anyway. Perhaps feeling that in this he could pay for some of his lacking in the past. I ran there, always looking back for the brother I had to leave behind, hoping he wouldn't be long or far behind.
Once there, I had to make my way into yet another school. But this one...this one had you move through a massive crowd of people, table to table, where the teachers sat and took your name as you signed up for their class. Perhaps it was the stress of the move and the pain and loss therein. Perhaps it was something else. But I had what I can only call a complete loss of self. I walked into that cacaphony and went stock still. My hand sought his desperately. As though I were a toddler rather than the near-woman I was.
I can remember even in this moment the relief that I felt when his warm flesh took mine, when he looked to me - thoroughly confused as to why I would be reacting so - and slowly wended our way through the crowd, table to table, as I hid my face in his sleeve - buried in the crook of his arm so that no one need see the tears and the fear. A gentleman, he was, making smooth the fractured seas I was sailing inside my mind.
I have never forgotten that mercy. Never.
He wasn't there. Far too often he simply wasn't there. But in that space - that bare 20 minutes - he was a father.
So I can laugh now when he calls me, speaking of the implant he hopes will...raise his...hopes for the ladies. We can cackle together over the worst pun. And I can completely accept his penchant for modulating his voice as he speaks, moving into the most proper British accent or the lilt of an Irishman to press a point home. We can speak of music that moves us, and I can smile as he dances a jig, or a wee bit of soft shoe. No, he wasn't meant to be relied upon like a rock. Rather, he was meant to be a scrim - something to bounce your light off of, something to back your play. To decorate your life and then move on.
And it's okay. It's okay, now.
These are for him - all of them because of what he gave me.