Do we ever really know? Most of the time, at my age, I feel pretty sure I do.
Then the phone rings and my father tells me he's purchased airfare and I ink him into the weekend squares of my calendar. I begin to think about him more and start remembering the little bit there is to remember. Most of my life has been father-absent.
I'm comfortable with this, yet that statement makes me sad, even if just a little. How can these both be? Is it possible to be comfortable with, and sad about the same thing? I don't think I'm comfortable with sadness, so that can't be it.
And that's how life goes from being perfectly fine to a perfect mess.
One family gathered around the table for the bearing of bad news: divorce.
A few years of choosing the impossible: mom or dad, both no longer an option.
The rest of your life getting used to not having your dad in any capacity that's meaningful.
Children adapt, so we learn to acclimate to the circumstances. We find a spot in our being for the sadness and what's lacking: the need to have his approval, his identity, to know who you are. And you grow accustomed to the rock that is heavy that makes the space between you cold and hard and non-living.
You tell yourself that it's a fine place to sit when your paths do cross the telephone lines for chit-chat about how fast the kids grow up, how busy life is, and the latest joke he treats his clients to that day. But you hate that you're on par with his clients and that the jokes are unfulfilling, and you hang up still strangers. And you don't talk for many months, because there's really nothing to say.
He's been here three times before in the last twenty-one years. The conversation always repeats: memories past, old regrets, and long distances. And more failure at trying to make sense of it.
I think I'm not willing to forge something new at this point because I don't have any more grief and pain to give to this relationship. I don't want to risk it. That's what's sad.
There's not any unforgiveness or bitterness keeping me from it really, just a lack of energy or desire to build anything new. It simply is what it is: only little and superficial. It doesn't take much effort and can't do any real damage. That's what's comfortable.
And I know who I am. I'm a daughter, with as many short-comings as her father.