Tag Archives: family dynamics

Daddy

This radio essay is from 1995–six and a half years before my dad died. I saw him many more times after this, including a memorable visit a few weeks before his death, when he was still perfectly healthy. I am blessed to remember our time together with such potency.

A friend of mine says the other day that those Father’s Day cards make her sick–the ones about Dad always being there for you. And sure enough, the first one I look at says just that. I don’t buy that one, but not because it isn’t true. My dad is always there for me. Dads like mine are called “Daddy” by their grown daughters, and this frequently makes people roll their eyes.

When my dad told me he’d come to see me soon, he told me to make a list of all the little things I wanted. Instead of making a list of 200 or so little things, I made a list that says only: one cord of oak. This will disappoint my dad, who hopes silk and silver are on a long list written on pink linen paper. I did get my dad a Father’s Day card, the one that says: When I was fourteen you were stupid, Dad, but you’re smart now. I got about the last one of those, so you probably got one too. All dads, but especially dads called “Daddy”, love to be told that they are unequivocally right.

The card is perfect for my dad. I couldn’t say more than “pass the salt” to the man from puberty to adulthood. In those days it bound my feet to even make eye contact with him. When I was nineteen I wrote him a letter, asked him to visit me in San Francisco. He slept on my couch. We walked on the beach just as we did when I was four and we lived in Ventura, then a sleepy beach town. In those days we’d walk for miles sucking on jawbreakers and talking about–well–just about everything. Now he says, “I spent more time with you than with all my others combined.” Maybe that’s why I’m the only one of his kids who calls him “Daddy”.

Next month he’ll come to visit, grimace that I have no television, garbage disposal, dishwasher, or dryer. He’ll try so hard not to comment on my son’s long hair, or the hair on my legs and under my arms. He won’t be able to resist asking about men, why I don’t want to live with the man I love, why I like waking up alone. He’ll tell me that he just doesn’t understand me. He’ll ask me what I want besides a cord of oak. We’ll walk on a path in the pines just as we once walked on the beach. And of course I’ll call him Daddy, when no one is listening.

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After the Game

Football season always reminds me of this poem I wrote more than twenty years ago now.  Many years younger than my jock brothers, I grew up watching the younger play football, basketball, and baseball.  I spent hours upon hours commuting to games with my dad, his Jeep, and sometimes friends such as Les Eva. Now my jock son plays on the same basketball court as my brother once did.  Time passes, but some memories remain indelible. From the archives….

 

After the Game

At the table Mama brings him milk toast.

Steamy lactose floods my nostrils as Dad

inhales hot globby bread–post game ambrosia.

Mama waits in the shadows to bring another

helping.  I perch in the corner hearing him talk,

itemize the highlights:  how my brother showed.

“Should’ve had six more, didn’t watch the block.”

He stoops to glut the bottom of his bowl.

 

Our mutt, old from begging, sits up against the wall.

My dad slurps, not bothered by her lack of pride.

She leans, senile statue, until I call,

“This time won’t be different!”  She turns aside.

Shadowed, Mama asks, “What honey?”  I shrink

away.  She turns to tackle dishes in the sink.

 

1988

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I Am the Woman

I’ve just taken three months away from my desk as I moved the farm and office and settled in. This morning is my first morning back at my desk.  To mark the occasion, here is a poem I wrote over 20 years ago.  It’s been bubbling up in my mind these past weeks as I weeded basil and strawberries, sifted through boxes, adjusted to life on the frontier, off the grid.  It’s good to be back.  Thanks for visiting. 

I’m the aunt who curses and drinks.

You’ve read about her, I’m apt to think.

Be careful my nieces, don’t get too near–never know

Who’ll you’ll meet, can’t be sure what you’ll hear.

 

I’m the sister who blurts family truths out,

Can’t resist being graphic, is known even to shout.

Don’t visit too often, don’t stay too long;

Never can tell when I’ll say something wrong.

 

I am the daughter who was terse and morose

Stared cross-eyed at guests, could never play host.

“She’s sure to blossom one day,” they said as

They strolled down the walk and I hurried to bed.

 

I am the wife who won’t do laundry or shop

Rather lie around with a novel, and God–

I’m known not to mop till my feet stick to the tile.

I’d rather talk on the phone and cry till I smile.

 

I’m the mother who spares him no truth,

Says the word fuck even though it’s uncouth.

I’ve told him that I don’t like brussel sprouts, either,

And he gets to drink Coke without having a fever.

 

I am the lover who tries to feel without threat

What a lover should feel, what a lover should get.

In the balance between loving man, loving woman

Took me years to jill off without hearing a sermon.

 

I am the woman who saw the barbed wire

Entrapping her sex with its masculine ire.

I was young when I felt its confining embrace

Earned freedom by snapping it back in the face.

1994

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