Sometimes I think of my dad on long summer nights. When everyone is sleeping. When I walk to the hall bathroom , careful not to wake up Danny and I catch a glimpse of the television. I think about those types of nights when I was six. When everyone was sleeping and I would walk toward the living room and stand in the hallway illuminated by the light of the television. I would stand there watching him until he noticed me and waved me over. We would sit on the couch together and watch old Mexican movies. The type that are in black and white.
I always felt like I was getting away with something by staying up late watching movies. I later learned that my mom knew about it but allowed it because school was out until fall. I learned about it when she made me stop as soon as school resumed. I think those were the last fond memories of him before he left. If ever.
I remember waking up one day when I was seven and walking into the kitchen, my eyes bloodshot red from napping. My mom asked if I was ok and my older sister responded “she’s been crying because dad left” And that’s how I knew. No goodbyes or explanations. Just gone.
Then came the months. Those months of pretending not to hear mom crying at night or walking on eggshells around her. Tiptoeing around her feelings. Careful not to set her off. The months of transitioning from a house to a small apartment. Transitioning into our new lives. I had limited contact with him after that and I never remember it being pleasant. I grew and convinced myself that I was better off without him. That I didn’t need him to begin with. Was it true?
I have no contact with him now. By choice I tell myself, although I’m not entirely sure that’s true either. Do we ever really stop needing our parents or stop suffering as a result of their absence. Will Danny ever stop needing me?
I try not to think of my father and I’m pretty good at it. In fact I can go months without him crossing my mind. It wasn’t until my husband brought him up casually as we were eating chipotle that I really allowed myself to think about it. To really think. He asked “were you and your dad ever close?” And it stopped me in my tracks. No one had ever asked me that and it wasn’t something I was ready to answer. After a pause I answered him “we were.” Danny started to fuss and I asked Dan if he’d like to take him for a walk while I finished eating. He happily agreed and I sat there in silence looking at my veggie bowl and thinking about what had just been said.
This was two months ago.
Im glad it was said. Im glad that door was opened and that I have learned to deal with the bottled up emotions in the months since. I’ve allowed myself to remember memories I thought were long gone. To grieve the loss of a father as well as the loss of who I was when he was around. To come to terms with who I am now because of it and who I want to be in spite of it. I look at Danny now and I know that I would never leave him by choice. I would never choose a life that didn’t involve him. I think of the happy memories him and I will make. One day he will tiptoe across the living room and the sight of the television will bring back memories for him. Memories of us as a family. Of mom and dad pointing their phones at him recording as he bobs up and down. Of us laughing at the fact that anything makes him dance even background music in commercials.
For now Danny needs me as I am. I would be no good to him as a bitter person who blocks out memories and reinvents her past. He needs a mother who can be honest with herself. A little bit broken. A little bit vulnerable. Someone who knows that not every past is a precursor to the future. Not all pasts are generational curses bound to repeat themselves. Sometimes they’re just distant memories. In black and white.