A fluffy gray kitty rests in my lap as I settle on the couch to drink my first cup of coffee. She looks up at me with half-closed eyes and begins to purr. “Oh, Sophie…this is the last morning like this for awhile.” She continues to gaze at me lovingly, oblivious to the fact that I just dropped a bombshell. “Grandma Joan”, as Nick calls her to Sophie, will stop by daily to offer her a little company and feed her the Fancy Feast she so dearly loves.
Tomorrow, I will begin my first real vacation in God knows how long. Around about April, we were out eating when Nick said, “I did something this week, and I’ve tried to keep it a secret, but I just can’t.” I waited for him to continue, wondering which direction that statement would go. “I bought airline tickets. I’m taking you to The Keys for your birthday.”
We couldn’t take a good picture to save our lives!
My suitcase is mostly packed, but knowing myself as I do, I will most likely empty it tonight and then pack it all over again. My aunts gave me early birthday presents at work yesterday, and today is my last day at work. The last week has been a blur, and I have been stressed out with the [overwhelming] bevy of details…but as that fluffy gray kitty pounced on my belly early this morning, I woke up and looked to Nick (who had just stirred), whispering, “I’m excited.”
Drinking coffee while looking at a Southern sunrise, running with the shoreline in view, a week sightseeing and exploring, celebrating number twenty-six in a most unforgettable way…”I’m excited,” doesn’t really do it justice.
“We are not human beings, but human becomings,” I can still hear my eight grade English teacher reciting. The emotion has lodged in my throat the past several days, and today came my catharsis, when I released something, some sort of bitterness I’ve clung to for so long that I didn’t know where it ended and I began. It didn’t consume me, but it was there, a very unchristian hoarding that I had convinced myself that I didn’t have.
My Dad. He really is a great man. His eyes are the blue of glaciers, and they glisten with tears when you least expect it, sending to to the same wonderful fate. My adult relationship with this man has been strained to say the least. I don’t mean to say that it has been poor, only that I was spoiled by how easy it was for me to know my mother and to love the stuffing out of her. My father and I didn’t really know one another by the time I graduated high school.
I remember the proud father who often came to be the parent-helper at my preschool over the two years I was there, I remember the man who kept every gaudy key chain that I ever made for him during craft time, and I remember the beefy sandpaper paws of his that held my little-girl-hands so gently. Then, my brother started having severe behavioral problems, and my memories of him grow fewer and farther in between. Mom and I were often left to live with the chemical imbalance that was dropped into our laps, and I believe that this alliance was the root to our incredible closeness. Dad had his own business. He could find places to be when he didn’t want to be home. Mom and I had to hold the fort.
I guess I’ve always kind of held it against him without meaning to do so—I am the biggest proponent of forgive and forget, yet I held on to this hurt. I constructed it into a shield that I used to keep myself from being truly close to my father. It is unfair to blame someone for their frailty. I have been wrong.
I went to visit with him one night this week. I’ve taken to doing this on a somewhat regular basis…which started because it made him feel good…and has continued because it sort of makes me feel good too. While there, Charlie called, and upon hearing that I was at the house, wished Dad to send his love to me. I said something to the effect of how prideful I am of my brother, how fiercely devoted I am to the person he has become…and how I never imagined such a day would come while self-locked in my bedroom while he beat against the barrier. No good could come from him getting through, I knew this to be true. These days, I leave the figurative door open, and give him a key just in case it should close without my notice. People change.
Coming out of my reverie, I heard a sniffle and turned sharply toward my father who sat kitty-corner from me in the living room. “I’m sorry, Laura,” he said and I was caught off guard. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there.” That was all he said. I was never certain that he understood my distance. I had never voiced my reasons, had never alluded to them…as already stated, I barely understood my distance.
The statement has been reverberating in my mind for days, and I’ve had the most wonderful sensation of warmth, reward…peace. It has a name: forgiveness.
We went to Dad’s church this morning, Burke Lutheran held their special outdoor service at 10:00, and I promised I would go. The gospel was from Luke 13, about the woman who had suffered with disease eighteen years before Jesus picked her from a crowd and made her well. The sermon instructed us to be patient for our cure. The prayer at the end of the children’s sermon summed it best, “Lord, help us wait. Help us trust you.”
I brought the message back to Dad, who had been unable to hear the sermon (having volunteered his services to the cookout to take place immediately following). He has been struggling with his empty house. Today he was limping quite badly, having injured his ankle the night before. Had he gone to the doctor? No, there was no one at home to force him there while he convinced himself he could walk it off. Then I understood his emptiness, and I was humbled by how little I have let him into my life.
And my phone rings. Hours later, after Nick and I have returned from a last bit of shopping before our vacation which begins at the end of this week. “Hello?” It is him, letting me know that he has his ankle elevated and iced as he promised he would do as soon as his duties with the cookout were satisfied. I smiled, happy he called to tell me so. “Good. Thank you. You’ll get in to see the doctor tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Hey, listen, I wanted to thank you for coming today. It meant a lot to me. I…” he hesitated and I heard his voice grow thick, “…also wanted to let you know that I am really impressed with where you are in life. I am really proud of who you are. I thought maybe you should know that.”
I am smiling right now, too busy thinking of him to figure out how to wrap up this rambling mess of a post. I have my daddy back again, the one who patiently baited my hook AND took off the fish time after time, and gave us rides on his back while he crawled around on all four limbs…the one to whom I no longer feel like a disappointment.
Dear Lord, it was worth the wait.