Someone's gonna wake up with a horse head in their bed.

My dad and I were talking about radio stations recently. He and I used to listen to NPR and I was disappointed to learn he had become an avid country radio fan. This was mostly due, he claimed, to NPR “getting too liberal. They’re always interviewing poor people on that station, complaining ‘wah wah wahhh, I’m so poor.’” Well. Sounds like a good reason to me, those poor people really shouldn’t have a voice.

Despite the horribly conservative, kind of cruel sentiment behind his comment, every time I reach into my brain and hit the replay key, it still makes me chuckle. My dad and I are pretty close, despite the rage and rebellion of my childhood. He gave me my smile, my ski jump nose and my temper. He and I had our deepest, best talks over projects like building sets for the church play, or a tree house for the backyard. My dad helped me understand my mother better, find the confidence to leave a bad relationship, and the courage to tell my mother I had failed a class in college (an F! In Philosophy! Who does that?!). I was always aware, from preschool through college (and yes, into adulthood) that my dad would beat up anyone who hurt me.

My dad was laid off Monday morning. I found out when Sis called, warning me not to call my parents that evening. Monday evening I realized how alone I still am, with no one to dump my surprise and anguish on, Monk at practice, the out-of-towners’ numbers locked up tight, and no substantial relationships out here. (I did also realize this wasn’t really about me, of course. What do you take me for? Ever heard of empathy, people?!) I just wanted to sit and moan to someone over coffee, like the old days, so I wouldn't call my parents and end up sprinkling more anxiety and what ifs over the already bad start to their week.

Instead, I endured a rolling stomach and fitful sleep until I could talk to my dad the next morning. He told me how sneaky the delivery had been, how betrayed he felt (less than 3 years away from retirement), but how it was also a little liberating. He “celebrated” with a bottle of wine Monday night, under the anxious, not-amused gaze of my mother. My dad assured me that he was okay, that he would get through this unscathed, that everything would be alright. I guess I mostly believe him. He and I exchanged humor and silver linings for a while, but still the ache in me persisted, still my voice broke every few minutes as my eyes watered from pain and frustration, longing to fly “home” and hug everyone happy.

I don’t think we recognize the moment the switch is flipped. When do we begin to feel this immeasurable compulsion to make everything alright for our parents? To fix the things we haven’t even nailed down in our own lives? At what point did I start wanting to protect my dad, to beat up the people that hurt him?

Photo from Bob Sanderson's fantastic photo blog

2 comment:

Anonymous Pickle said...

Aw, shit girl.

I'm off over the next two days, and I get off at 6 on Sunday. Let me know if you'll be around and we'll talk.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I know what you mean. I feel that way about my parents too. :-) Actually, my sis has had some medical tests for something. We agreed not to tell my parents because we didn't want to worry them.

10:49 AM  

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