People often ask whether I don’t feel lonely on the road.
I tend to answer them glibly: “I feel lonely no matter where I am.” It’s a true answer, and it’s one that helps me have a sense of humor most of the time about solitude when it encroaches uncomfortably.
But some days it doesn’t crowd me; it shivs me, instead.
Today is Father’s Day…Fathers’? Plural possessive or singular?…and there’s a place between my third and fourth ribs with a pulsing sharp ache.
I just found an email from my dad that referenced the Saturday mornings when I was very little, that we used to make biscuits together, out of white flour and Crisco and cream of tartar. He scraped the shortening out of the measuring cup with a butter knife. I cut the circles out of the dough, with him coaching me to cut each one close to the edge of the last one, to maximize use of the space, rather than going for the exact middle like it was a fresh snowbank.
We used to eat the fringes, too…we liked the baking powdery taste, I guess, and the gummy texture. There was one time when we were driving home from somewhere together, and we stopped at a Food Basket on Clairemont Drive so he could buy a can of biscuit dough from the refrigerated section for us to eat together. I don’t know if he said not to tell mom–that never has been his style. But it never happened again, and I’ve never forgotten it.
I was just thinking of those biscuit mornings, too, maybe yesterday, or maybe the day before. So hearing from him about them wasn’t a surprise, and yet from him, it was.
It’s always a surprise with my dad, even when I already know exactly what he’s going to say.
I know that some people have genuinely hard Fathers’ Days, because their dads are gone, or were never there. Jamie lost her father unexpectedly; it was five years ago, and it still hurts her the same. I know some people don’t have the luxury of knowing that their father never hurt them on purpose.
I won’t plead my right to feel sad, lonely and bereft on this Father’s Day, despite that that my dad is living, enjoying good health, working hard. It’s not my dad’s fault that I miss him; I’m the one that left. And while in moments like this I am tempted to wonder if that was wrong, if I’d be feeling different if I’d stayed…that’s always the question that solitude brings up…I know that I wouldn’t. It’s not my dad that I’m mourning…because apparently that’s what I’m doing, as the hot water comes down on my head and the place between my ribs flares, bringing out tears that feel equally hot.
It’s not having a dad, at a certain point past which you can’t really have one. It’s not being able to hide behind someone taller and stronger than you. It’s not having someone to trust instead of myself. It’s not having a guide, a cohort, an explainer of things. It’s not having the person who says “Now it’s time to learn how to ride a bike” or “I’m going to the beach, and you’re coming with me” or “It’s Saturday, and on Saturday morning, we make biscuits.”
I never once in my life felt that my dad was disappointed in me, even though we’ve disagreed plenty over choices that I’ve made. But he always seemed to look to something outside of me to place his disappointment.
I think that’s a gift.
I’ve often felt I was hurting him, but not that he blamed me for it.
Sometimes, I wish that he would have.