After Mom died, Dad would sit for hours in his study, reading over his old journals, growing more depressed. Talking to him was useless.
I’d clear my throat, Dad knew that meant I was about to speak, so he’d look up.
“You know we could head for that bookstore you like” I’d say, trying to smile.
He’d look at the bookshelves around him, then at me.
“Nope, I have plenty I haven’t read.” He’d say.
“Well, we could go meet with your friend ” I’d say. The friend could be a number of seniors he knew. He’d shake his head like trying to shake off a bad memory.
“No Ma’am, I don’t have time.”
Dad preferred the solitary environment. Every now and then I’d go over to help him – wash a few clothes, clean a little. He’d thank me, take me to dinner and smile. He’d tell me about the latest book he was working on, or poetry collection – books that never sold. I’d try to stay encouraging because the writing kept him going, kept him alive, and that’s what I wanted. Yes, I’m selfish- I wanted Dad to stay around. My kids loved him. Ryan would sit on ‘Paw Paw’ knee all day if he could and Marie loved to play any game with him. The other day, Ryan fell into Dad’s pond. I thought Dad would fly into a rage. He laughed harder than I heard since Mom died. He grabbed every towel in the house and dried him. Ryan sat there pouting at first.
“Paw Paw” He said.
“Yes Son.” Dad said smiling.
“I fell in the water.” Ryan said.
“Did you see the fish?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, did they talk to you?” Dad said.
“No!” Ryan said. At this point, I’m trying not to laugh. Ryan’s expression is serious now.
“Well next time, talk to them!” Dad teased.
Ryan hugged him, wet and all. Dad loved it.
Dad made up for my situation. Against his advice, I married a military guy and yes, he disappeared half the time or more. Oh he loved the kids when he was home, but otherwise it was a quick little note scribbled on hotel paper or a half-line email. Last year, he missed both the kid’s birthdays. Dad made up for it though by throwing the biggest party for them. Ryan talked about his father like he was a distance visitor – and in a sense, he was. So, Dad was the stand-in father for the kids. He was the Zoo-Dad, Park Dad, Movie-Dad and all the rest. He read to them, hugged them and cared for them.
So, as I stir my coffee, and watched the red and golden leaves gently settle to the ground, I see him sitting there reading in the quietness of his study and found it hard to scold him for being someone that I don’t have right now. A Father to my Kids. So, I guess it’s Ok to be a little selfish.