Originally published on Thumpcity.com

Almost Love

Temples adjoin with only skin separating them, a combined heartbeat cleaves into four echoing drumbeats of eight chambers, rooms that have accumulated the clutter of years. Head to head, shoulder to shoulder, we’ve reached a meeting of the minds but of the hearts? Well that’s another language, a foreign terrain lined with unexploded mines, yes, that’s another story altogether. I’m sitting on this park bench with my elderly father and I’m remembering, even while he’s forgetting. To any stranger, we’d seem to be the picture of affection. But I know that it is merely well rehearsed affectation. We’ve become brilliant actors, reminiscent of those of the silent screen, saying nothing, but speaking volumes in our quiet ways.

Our unshed words wash over us like a waterfall, smoothing the edges and raining down an erosion of the well built fortresses that time creates between fathers and their daughters. We’ve stopped trying to outguess and out-strategize each other—Death has given us that small mercy. As it approaches ever nearer, a whisper growing louder every year until it screams at us and we can no longer pretend deafness, we cling to each other blindly trying to ward off our only common enemy. This deafness and blindness are a result of the dulling of the senses, necessary for us to sit here like this, now, as though there never was an angry word or a lifetime of disappointed sorrow and misses…always those misses. I recall the ball tossed and how I'd miss and he’d say “Almost—you almost had it….” at first encouragingly and then with a slight tinge of contempt. Is the tired cliché true? Would he have rather I had been born a boy? He has protested this theory convincingly over the years, but still I wonder.

Accusation is a constant companion of ours. We know it well and it often pulls up a chair at our dinner table like a familiar guest that has long outstayed its welcome but refuses to leave. We accuse each other of our own inadequacies and inabilities to fill in each other’s sadnesses. We accuse each other of not really seeing the other, as though we’re trapped in some not-so-funhouse mirror with one another as the distorted reflection that beams back blinking and confused. Lost children in a department store---that’s what we are.

Besides my name, I get my height and thickness of hair from him and sometimes even …God forbid... his corny appreciation for puns. I also inherited his perfectionism and need to charm those around him like bees into believing that he has a deep source of honey stashed somewhere secret. But we, he and I, know that the honey is a trick of the eye. A smoke and mirrors “Love me, please” tactic. I think once you know that about someone, and they know that you know it…trouble is bound to lay in wait for you both like a predator ready for the pounce. They’ll alternately resent you for not knowing them at all…and for knowing them all too well. It is a political and emotional conundrum…a lose/lose scenario just like war. Everybody loses because while the causes of freedom may be exalted…behind the scenes kids are killed, mothers are raped and grandmothers weep. And dads? Well, sometimes they yell. And other times they throw things, or hit. They have their own skirmishes on the home front. And then they can easily turn on the charm for strangers and turn into zombies in front of sports events for their families.

There was this one time in kindergarten when my father cried. It was the only time I ever saw him cry. It scared me and made me feel relieved at the same time. Now he cries a lot. And my tears - which were once abundant at his knee-jerk name-calling - “Little bitch, sourpuss, leech…” have suddenly dried up. We have an almost kind of love…it’s almost there…but it’s missing something. It’s missing a softness, a feather touch of angel’s wings and a big picture perspective. We have too many forests and not enough trees, here, sir. And still some sharp edges that neither time nor death can touch.

I don’t want to feel this way. I want to be a normal daughter and sit here side by side with my dad all warm and safe in this glorious autumn sunshine and remember all the good things. The bad things always seem to surface first…then the guilt…then the good. You see - you may not think so, now…but this is actually a love letter to my dad. I think we can love imperfectly. Because we do. And I think we can make an imperfect peace here in this park bench scenario. Even if it only exists in my imagination…while he drifts off on his own trains of thought and regret. And he can hold onto the past - the almost life that was. But I’m looking ahead to the day our almost love becomes that soft, feathery thing. Until the warmth is real - not just generated from body heat. Until the eyes in the mirror are found. Until the almost is almost enough.

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