My Father’s Birthday

My Father’s Birthday

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 my father’s birthday #writerslife #onemanshow #wednesdaywisdom


spring of 1986… I meet my father for the first time in 20 years…. it’s a few months before I get married… I go to his house… when he swings the door open, I get to see exactly what I’m going to look like when I’m 57 – the age I am now… he kisses me on the cheek and I’m 5 again – beard stubble, smell of tobacco, coffee, and Old Spice… you know how Rice Krispie boxes, no matter what size, look exactly to same? my Dad? he’s the one you get at the diner… I’m the one you get at Costco… we laugh alike, we walk alike, at times we even talk alike – at one point we sit we fold our arms in the exact same way… both wake early, love coffee, crossword puzzles and redheads… I began to understand the reason I was never allowed to wear jeans… or flannel – I remember back to times coming home late to find mom asleep on the couch in front of the tv, I’d jostle her to wake her up to send her to bed… she’d open her eyes, and gasp… this made me feel so sad for my mom – I finally got how in love with my father she still was – and always had been… he drove a truck, I drove a truck… I became a teacher, not knowing that he had become a teacher… we talked pleasantries, but at some point he went quiet, said he knew he hadn’t done the right thing, said he had gotten my letter, but wasn’t interested in defending himself… there was never ever going to be a good or peaceful way out of his marriage… and then he went to a desk, pulled out a large manila envelope… in it? every support check he’d ever sent my mother – marked “Return To Sender” (remember, I grew up on welfare)… said at one point he planned to bale on paying support… but Mary – his second wife – said she wouldn’t marry him if he didn’t support his children (I always liked Mary – though it would have killed my mother to hear me say so)… why? he told me he would arrange to take us out for the day, but when he came to pick us up, we’d be gone… and I remembered the spontaneous trips my mother would take us on… to the zoo – an amusement park… stealing us from our father… he told me she once said that if he tried to see us, she’d sooner see us dead… so he stopped trying… knowing my mother had so poisoned our minds against him, he stepped back…

when each kid wanted his side of the story, he’d be happy to meet them… each had… I was there that day… my dad wasn’t searching for me, but he was waiting… I’d been so angry that he was absent from my life… even though I had been carefully trained to hate and fear him… why didn’t he even try to come find me… 2 teachers at my high school moonlighted at a bar my father worked at on weekends… he had every one my report cards… and when I was in plays in high school, on the first nights of the shows – when it was the ritual that my mom and family would not attend (so I could work out all the bugs), as the doors closed and the lights dimmed, my father, having bought a ticket thru one of those teachers he knew, would slip quietly into one of the seats in the back row or stand in the back… I never knew him, but he knew me…

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