My dad and I have never had a very easy relationship. It’s not easy to be the Colonel’s daughter. I’m certain it’s not easy to be my father.
As much as I’ve tried to deny it over the years, we are very similar creatures. I make the beds in my house with hospital corners, the way he taught me, because it’s the only proper way. I hear his totally unenforceable threats come out of my mouth when I’m yelling at Monkey Boy: “If you don’t straighten up, we are never leaving the house again!” We are both pig-headed, dig-your-heels-in, fight-you-to-the-death stubborn, which explains a lot of our tension.
The only good I can see that has come out of that stubbornness is that we have a relationship at all. When my parents divorced, I was fiercely angry. I blamed all of my pain on my father. I was an absolute beast. I was also 12, so a certain amount of wretchedness was to be expected, but I gave it some gusto. I managed to keep some level of anger simmering until my early 20s. Then, honestly, it just became too much effort to stay mad. Throughout every bit of that, he kept calling, kept asking me to come over, kept being my dad. No matter how many times I dished load after load of contempt, he kept showing up. He’s made his fair share of mistakes, but he was too stubborn to wave the white flag of surrender.
Today is Father’s Day. It’s his first without his dad. He spent it at the hospital with his wife and her sick father. There’s no way this was a warm fuzzy holiday for him. I got to thinking about all the times we sat together in silence. Sometimes astoundingly awkward; sometimes quite peaceful.
The summer I was 15, my dad lived in a house, which had a pool. For whatever reason, we were the last ones outside one night, picking up from the day’s cookout. He was about to turn off the radio when Don McLean’s “American Pie” came on. I remember I said I liked the song. He stopped and let it play. We sat with our feet in the water, in silence, watching lightning bugs and listening to the tribute to the Day the Music Died. More than likely, we’d fought that day. We almost always did. But for a few minutes, we called a truce. We were quiet. We were father and daughter.
A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.