Unsaid Words

Happy Father's Day.

I say that to all the Dads out there even though Father's Day is now three days past.  My words are late, but what you don't know is that they always are.


I have a flexible relationship with punctuality.  There are some occasions for which I would never, ever turn up late.  Others can sit in the warming drawer for five or even fifteen minutes until I arrive.  Maybe more. Unfortunately, the logic that applies to the prioritization of these events sometimes escapes those around me.

You know, I would hate to be late to a movie.  Even the part where they play the trailers is part of the experience for me.  Nope.  I need to be there for when the theater darkens.  It's important.

But I can be late with birthday calls, Christmas gifts, baby congratulations, and the rest.  And I often am.

Including Father's Day wishes.

During childhood, the three of us kids had our grandmother to keep us in line and on time.  Let me tell you, she was exceptional.  But after striking out on my own and being independent, I found these rules to be stifling.  What was the big deal? What did it matter if we called one day or the other?

My parents could be so damn uptight.

There were other times when I simply didn't want to call.  I didn't want to send a damn card.  You see,  Dad and I had a rocky relationship.  On the one hand, I was his girl.  His only daughter.  His youngest of three.  His baby.

When I think of him that way, I can only smile.  No one could hug like Dad.  My Dad would just pick me up and sit me down with him and I knew it was going to be okay.  I can still feel him rocking me when I would get so upset and cry, heaving into his shoulder.

"Shh.  Stop it now.  You'll make yourself sick."  He would rub my back over and over, until I was calm and cried out.

The thing was, it was Dad that usually caused the crying.  He was an angry man.  A violent man.  And the demons that drove him would sometimes erupt outside of him onto the walls, the furniture, and ultimately the children he loved.

But then there would be fun.  Colorful homemade costumes at Halloween for us, and the same for him every Friday night at the local wrestling matches.  Until he was arrested, that is.  For harassing one of the wrestling managers while he was dressed as the Pink Panther.  Or maybe the Nutty Professor.  I can't remember which now.

There were the crafts.  And the home decorating projects.  Is country blue in style this season?  Well, hold on to your asses because every single thing in the house is about to be painted country blue.  My brother and I once joked that it was a good thing we didn't stand still too long during that weekend.

Weekend?  Yes.  These things would take place in the span of a few days or a weekend.  I grew up thinking that people redecorated or painted their houses in one or two days.  Sold their furniture.  Got new stuff.  All at garage sales.  All accomplished within days.

The good news is that it gave me a really indomitable sense of what can be done in very short periods of time, especially if you're willing to sacrifice sleep.  The bad news is that I'm 100% certain as a former longtime healthcare worker that my dad was an undiagnosed bipolar.

Although I wonder if it wasn't so bad.  When he shined, he shined so bright.

That wasn't the tragedy.  The tragedy was that he just couldn't be who he was.  He was a gay man.
A gay man born in 1941 in St. Joseph, Missouri.  It was the home of Stetson. Where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended.  Some might say that even in 1941, it was still the west.

I think he tried very hard to be what the world wanted him to be.

I know he loved his kids.  And he was complicated.

My brother spoke at his memorial years later and described him as a bright kaleidoscope of colors.  Someone that blinded you when he walked into a room, drawing everyone to him.  Such charisma.

Like a rainbow.

I wish I'd been able to speak at that memorial.  My words were locked tight in my chest.  They kept company with the tears that day, knowing there would be no hand at my back, rubbing to soothe them away.

I remember the year I lost him.  Everyone does as we lost so many that year.  It was 2001.

In April, I had bought him a birthday card a few days after his birthday.  I promised myself I would send it.

In June, I had bought a Father's Day card that same day but didn't mail it.  I would like to think I called.

I called my brother in July, tired from a late day at work.  "Do you think it would be okay if I just called him tomorrow sometime? I'm tired and just want to relax."  My brother thought it would be fine as Dad was actually getting out of the hospital in the morning, doing better.  We'd been raised in hospitals, so used to his many medical problems, numb from the process.  I'm not sure when it became such a burden to call him.  But it had.  It was.  Especially when he was sick.  He was always sick.


I still have those cards.  I keep them to remind myself that sometimes you can be too late.  Sometimes it does matter.

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