A self portrait of the subject of the below piece upon receipt of one of his three bacon themed Father's Day gifts. When in doubt, novelty bacon gifts always get a laugh.
I am happenstance. An occurrence without intent. I don't know if the condom broke or if there was a condom at all, but I know because I'm here and I've seen the house where it happened.
A newly minted man with Andretti dreams met a charismatic, chaotic slightly older blonde and the rest was history. I'm in their wedding photos, ripening beneath the bulge of her gown.
And I happened. After a long and arduous labor involving the dreaded forceps. I didn't want to come out even after induction. I had pointed elfin ears and sparse honey colored hair. Eyes that changed from grey to turquoise depending on how they dressed me and my mood. Sapphires when I cried.
One day later, his idol was murdered. Five shots fired, four taking purchase outside the Dakota. His greatest joy mixed with his greatest sadness up to that point. It is, to this day, an exercise in poor judgment to argue the supremacy of McCartney over Lennon. There will be anger, and likely tears, his grief and joy still entwined.
Two days later, his new bride hemorrhaged and he was left alone with this six pound creature that couldn't tell him what it needed. This wasn't how he imagined anything going. His mother helped, and like everything, he made it work until his wife, my mother, was released with a clean bill of physical health.
I have no memory of these things. Though it is certainly long and surprisingly accurate, I'm not a superhero. I know they were happy together for a while. I know they shared a pair of white cats, Fripp and Eno, both fluffy and white, disappeared. I know she planted flowers and likely wandered the acreage surrounding my parents property while he went to work at jobs that paid enough to get by but weren't at all what he'd wanted.
I'm told their last argument was over the final quarter inch in a bottle of vodka. She'd had enough and he told her so. Disagreeing with that statement, things escalated quickly. The scar from where she bit him rests just below the yin yang tattoo he now bears on his upper arm. She says he beat her and he says that when someone's got their teeth embedded in your arm, sometimes your only choice is to hit someone until they let go. I don't know if I was there. I do know her drunk and I know the viper strike of her knuckles on my orbital bone, the venom of her words.
What I do remember is a fierce custody battle. The two of them screaming at each other on shitty two flat porches over who got to see me and when. I remember a refusal to surrender parental rights when my stepfather wanted to adopt me. I remember a plea to end my suffering in the face of repeated throat infections by tonsillectomy and her tacit refusal.
By the time I was seven, they'd both remarried or were with the person they would remarry, one for better, the other for worse. I had a half brother and we'd moved, our nuclear unit, seventy eight miles and a forty five minute ferry ride away. Every other Friday night after work, he would drive those miles and take that ferry to get me only to repeat it Sunday and return me. He did this despite her attempts to drive him off, to poison me against him. "He gives you things as a substitute for the love he doesn't have. He wanted me to abort you." She and her husband called him names in front of me. She and her husband called me names in front of me.
When I was twelve, her marriage dissolved. I told him about the mistreatment at my stepfather's hands, kept silent about hers. It was my fault. I was always against her. The hemorrhage had kept her from appropriately bonding with me.
I was a fiercely bright child, taking after him. Offers to skip grades. My refusal to do so. Taking home straight As and being bullied for it. He taught me to throw a punch. Made me practice it just in case. Don't fold the thumb inside the fist. That's how you break your hand. Pivot on your rear foot and use your weight to propel you forward. Just like when we went candle pin bowling, remember to follow through. Take no shit. I think he might be happy to know I've only used my fists in defense a couple of times, that I found other ways to teach bullies not to fuck with me.
He held my hand outside MRIs and attended neurologist appointments with me when lower limb paralysis struck, fretted over whether I would walk again or if this was going to be progressive.
We watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X Files, and Millenium over spaghetti on Friday nights. We logged thousands of miles together. We witnessed amazing heat lightning in parking lots, sang with Guinea pigs, raced bigger, better cars on the highway and won, I yelled "flying flossers!"
He's always said "like father, like daughter" and I am a thing made in his image. I prefer my knives sharp both in the kitchen and in my purse. I hate raw tomatoes. I am ferociously protective of the people I choose to love and if I tell you I love you, regardless of our relationship state, I love you until one of us is in the ground. I'm silver tongued, often accidentally. I swear like a sailor, and I do it creatively. Forging compound curses that would permanently curl my grandmother's hair if she heard me.
Our relationship hasn't always been easy. I'm fiercely independent and prefer to learn lessons on my own. I think first, act later, but my actions don't always match his. I ran twelve hundred miles away two days after Christmas one year. I turned off my cell phone and drove it straight in twenty four hours. I abandoned my mediocre university and my entire family, all of my friends, because I needed to learn who I was without anybody else's influence. I can only imagine the confusion and hurt that blossomed as my wake widened in those early months.
And still he forgave me. He visited me after I bought my house, saw the place I've settled, and said "you're happy here. I can tell. And I'm happy for it." If I called, no matter the hour, and said "I need you," he'd hijack a flight, expend every resource, to get to me as quickly as he could.
He has been steadfast and, in a way, we've grown up together. I happened to him. He rose to my challenge. I work every day to make him proud and sometimes I like to surprise him. This is the resilience he's bolstered. The surprise in his voice when he acknowledged my words following the announcement of my divorce.
"Will you be okay?"
"Dad, if life has taught me anything, it's that I will always be okay. And if I'm not, it means I'm dead. And when I'm dead, I won't care, but that won't happen for a very long time. I'm absolutely okay."
"I never thought about it like that."
This is a small thing I have done for him. Making him think about things differently than anyone else could because of my ability to combine words, thoughts, and feelings in my own strange way.
It is the job of parents to do things right. If not always perfectly. And he has, with rare missteps. I love my daddy and I love myself because I am him with a few tweaks, lighter hair, blue eyes, and, oh yeah, breasts.