Two versions of me saw two versions of my dad tonight. The first came in the evening. I sat alone in my room and read letters he had written over 20 years ago. I felt close to him as I held the yellow notepaper he used to write his thoughts. I held it close to my chest wishing I had the man instead of the words. He wrote to my sisters and I about not being able to be near us because of something called alcoholism. My younger self could not understand what he meant and certainly couldn’t foresee the path of addiction she would be led down herself. My father has been dead for more than half of my life. I only got to know him for a few short years while I was a kid. I have since put him on a pedestal, choosing to only remember the good things about him and the sweet memories we formed together, though they were few and far between. Because they were in low supply, these little moments were greatly valued. As I read his letter a new man began to emerge from the page. Drawn with invisible ink, this figure could only be revealed by someone who carried the same pen. My adult, addict self was introduced to a man she had never met before. A man who was alone, in shame and suffering. He was a dad who loved his children and longed to be good enough for them. So what happened to him? Why didn’t this man on the page show up to take care of his kids? Where was he? Gone. A new man had taken over, and he had no children to love. And the children went unloved.
I have never seen this first man. I only have glimpses of him in sweet memories.
The hours drew on and my father appeared to me once more. Adult me walked into the living room to ask what seemed to me to be an innocent question. There are no innocent questions among angry men. Confused by the response, I pushed for explanation. In doing so, I disrupted very fragile ground. The earth began to shake beneath my feet. I asked the man why the floor shook. Another not so innocent question. The man pounded his boot into the quivering foundation. Cracks began to form. I told the man the ground was splitting apart. I begged him to stop stomping his boot. I told him that I felt unsafe standing there. I asked the man to scoop me up to save me from the crumbling world that threatened to swallow me up. The man’s rage shook inside him like the gravel below my body. From a question to an earthquake. The man became the angry caverns and began greedily pulling in everything he could reach. He strangled the mountains and clouded the sky. Adult me disappeared into the rubble and a frightened child was left as refuge. She lie alone in the eye of the storm. Unprotected. Unsafe. Unwanted. The earthquake only lasted a few seconds but left a damaged home in its wake. The walls were torn apart and rain had flooded onto the ground. The man collapsed on the floor and wept for the destruction he caused and the child he left alone to suffer the storm. The quake’s aftershock vibrated through the child as she stood hallow. She saw the man crying and went to him. She covered the weeping man with her small body and squeezed his form to ensure it was a man and not a quake. They lay like this in the aftermath for much longer than the storm actually lasted, the ruins of a warm home lie around them. He peels himself from the cold ground and her embrace. He dusts the dirt from his clothes and hair. Without a word the caverns close and the earth takes back its form. He leaves the girl alone in the wreckage. She begins to mop the rain that soaks the floor.