My father always wore glasses. I think I was in my twenties when he told me he had never really needed them. They made him feel more secure. He was talking about his past insecurity, his past self, but the surprise of it didn’t keep me from noticing its current rightness. It made how I experienced him make more sense to me. I was grateful to be hearing it.
I am still grateful. Those moments of insight are so precious, however they come. Allowing the rightness of my feelings gave me strength in my perception, of him, of my surroundings.
Growing up I was compared to him, my looks, my attitude, my feet. All stood in a line of his making. And when I was told one of these comparisons, they were not supportive but rather were put-downs. “Your sister looks like Grace Kelly,” a look regarding me, “and you, you look like your father.” I did look like my father. And I acted like him too. My mother’s consternation was palpable with my refusal to brush my teeth, wear anything but jeans, work outside in the fields all summer. I bathed in her disapproval, her frown was my sun. My father approved. He thought it was funny. I thought it was great to have an ally. Until he wasn’t. Which could happen any minute, seconds, the glass would be in his hand and everything would shift.
I was born noticing, we all are I think. In my young life there was really very little going on. My father left early for work. My mother stayed sleeping until noon, I would have either skipped school or been in the small classroom avoiding everything I could. I spent long hours by the river, with horses, dogs, cats. I roamed on foot and on my bike. So when my parents did say or do something I was ready for it. I noticed. It wasn’t in some river of activity where I wouldn’t see everything that floated by.
So when he said that about the glasses, I filed it with his need to take me around with him. See what he saw. Be witness to him when he had the final argument with my uncle who lived nearby and I never saw again until I was adult. He took me when he needed me, like a teddy bear I sat in the car and heard their voices. I was the silent witness, co-conspirator too young for judgement but not for memory.
I titled this “thanks” and I don’t mean it in irony. I am sincere in my belief that experiencing the craggy bottom of my father’s psyche saved me many a stumble.