I think that day I was complaining about all the junk. Or maybe the filthy, dark bathroom I had to share with my little brother. Either way, I was complaining, the latest bitch session of many bitch sessions about the things that were driving me to drink (more) about living with my daddy and stepmom and brother since relocating. And my dear friend QQ, bless her heart, was still patiently listening. When I paused for air she asked me, “So why don’t you just move?”
I didn’t have any answer for that.
* * * *
At the end of a long day, I finally park my truck outside the house after fighting 45 minutes of traffic to get here. I dodge the oversized potted plants and their spilled soil on the top step and walk inside. Honey greets me at the bottom of the steps, her tail wagging mightily and running around in excited circles.
“Hey Honey boo boo chile!” I greet her as she sits down and waits for her customary end-of-the-day belly rubs. When she is done, she sprints up the split stairs as I follow behind her, curling up at my daddy’s feet.
He returns my greeting, using my first and middle names as he always does, as though they are one name and not two.
“Okay dinner is almost done.”
I sit down on the couch across from him, slipping off my shoes and taking my hair down.
“You did that when you were a kid too.”
“Rub your face when you’re sleepy.”
I pull my hands down from my face, not even aware that I had been doing it.
We don’t talk about anything. How my day went. How spoiled the dog is. What’s for dinner. What’s on TV. Football. I follow behind him as he shuffles into the kitchen, his knee still sore from the surgery he had a few months back. We laugh and crack jokes as he puts the finishing touches on dinner while I try to steal food from his pots and pans when he isn’t looking. We settle in front of the TV as we always do since my stepmom is at work and my little brother isn’t fond of coming out of his room. He finds Family Feud, the one with Steve Harvey because he doesn’t like the other hosts, makes an immature joke about farts and we eat.
A couple hours later, after we have sat and watched TV and made inappropriate guesses about the responses 100 people gave to random questions, I take our dishes to the kitchen to wash and he sets up the ironing board. When I return, I pick up an edge of the pants he is pressing and throw them off the ironing board.
“Oh, I’ma beat your ass,” he says to me faking more malice than either of us believe and smiling so hard his eyes crinkle.
“Whatever, old man, ain’t nobody scared of you.”
We watch NCIS and talk about how he wanted to be an air force pilot. We talk about the dog putting on weight and the best way to sear a roast so it doesn’t get dry. We talk about more nothing before we both head upstairs to our bedrooms, him dragging a basket of laundry, me with the dog trailing closely behind me.
I shower and then curl up under my covers, slipping on my glasses and reading a little before my daddy comes in. He sits on the foot of my bed, rubbing the dog and telling me about a comedy special he wants me to watch before he leaves. Later, while I’m lying sprawled across my bed, smiling into the phone pressed against my cheek, he peeks his head in to give the dog a treat and tell me he is making my favorite meal tomorrow.
And really, this is it, isn’t it? This is the reason why, despite my bitching, and my discomfort, this is why I’ve not left. Because I am finally getting what I thought I never would; the chance to get to know my dad.
I worried for the longest that something would happen to one of us and we would still be strangers to one another. That time would get away with us and we would never be able to mend the things that had been broken between us. And I know, logically speaking, that my moving barely ten minutes away from him isn’t going to change anything.
But if I am being honest with myself, as I am trying to be these days, there is a kid here somewhere, who is just enjoying hanging out with her daddy. And a fear that change, any change really, might ruin what I never thought I’d have.