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Tales of a Post-Grad Nothing

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Yesterday was Father's Day. Up until the last few years, Father's Day gave me a very visceral reaction, the same kind of reaction I feel during turbulence on a plane or whenever I know that someone I love is gravely disappointed in me. All I can think about on Father's Day is how much I want to throw up, just so I can directly see my insides pouring out. They are anyway, I'd just like to see some physical proof of it to know I'm not crazy.

My own father left when I was 14 and in retrospect, what impacted me the most wasn't really that he left because I had been expecting that for a long time, but rather that my family didn't know where he was for four months. Four months. That's a long time and an even longer time when you consider it in terms of negatives, of going without sweets or television or anything you love for that length of time. What feels strange is that looking back, nobody ever went to look for my dad. The idea never crossed my mind. There was never a missing persons report filed. We never tried to call his friends or family or drive by his favorite hangouts. I don't think this was done, or rather not done, out of spite or anger, although I admittedly harbored those emotions for a very long time. Finding my father just didn't seem relevant.

I don't think we looked for him because in a way, there was nothing to look for. When I was young, I remember or perhaps built up my father as being this sort of Byronic hero - a noble person with good intentions buried in a checkered past he couldn't leave behind. He spent his nights hanging out in casinos and pool halls, telling wild stories about his life, of cooking sparrows on the streets because he was too poor to buy a meal, of getting flown to the French Riviera in a private jet for poker tournaments, of killing people in Asia, of conning the civil service system into giving him a job underage. Some of his stories are completely true, some are partly fabricated and I was never able to pick out who my father truly is amidst the inconsistancies.

As I grew up, I began to notice that my father had a knack for casually mentioning major life-altering surprises at inopportune moments. As if "I've had five heart attacks in the past two years" or "You have a sister. She's 18" were as insignificant as reading aloud your grocery list. When your experience of another person is nothing but surprise after surprise no matter how much time you spend with them, finding out "who are you?" becomes less of an answerable question and more of a bottomless pit.

Even living with him, I never knew who he really was and at times, I think he didn't either. When he finally did leave, he was just gone and that inevitable fact had been creeping up on our family for so long that I think my mother and I just desperately tried to acclimate ourselves to a new life, much in the same way that you try to force yourself to get used to living in a new city or going to a new school. For me, my father had always been lost. It was just as fitting for him to physically walk away as it was for me perpetually dream of spraying my insides all over the floor.

Yesterday when I called my father to wish him a very Happy Father's Day, he said in his usual hickory-smoked voice, "Here's the plain and simple truth Chris, I miss you very much." I felt my stomach spin over as I said, "I miss you too."

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