when you lose your father at age 10 to alcoholism, there's a few things you don't get.
you don't get to sit on his knee and donut his neck; deep breathing confusions until he whispers back sage, sugary comforts you can gnaw on all day long like a candy necklace.
[daddy's little girl.]
you don't get to talk. to a person. about the train of events railroading your life. the parallels with his vibrating so similar, i feel the steel tracks humming; white headlight squint. after school misadventures terminated.
[the train he didn't spot.]
and you don't get to share this sobering surprise. under a wilted paper towel, you've saved him the biggest slice of cake. the corner piece with the rose. while some purse lip at its divine, sugary sweetness, still others roll their eyes at the gaudy; godly inscription layered thick on top. one day at a time. you will not share your slice with him.
[nobody told me there'd me days like these.]
but when you are 8 months and 4 days sober...
you give thanks to a man who has consistently shown up to dance with you. on a black and white checkered floor, many a misstep; misquote twirled us too quick, and icing was called on account of injured toe or feelings. but this man has patiently dodged every swingan'amiss brought, arms never at his side, but outstretched wide.
[not only is she unlacing the gloves, she's thinking about hanging them up for good.]
you give thanks for an aunt, who until recently, was a stranger; the shadowy sister. a fanciful figure, now crinkling upwards from pages of the past. tales from the cryptic. her gift, a rope around a bundle of letters; a tether to her heart snaked loose across salty brine for decades. the storied siblings. p and t. granted access through the wardrobe, my movements are dainty, uncertain, my breathing shallow and thin; she steadies my back. on tiptoes, i peer into his soul and dive into hers.
and you give thanks for this letter (1972). you hold it in your hand with all the rigid tension of a pimple pulled taut, ready to pop, oozing poisonous pus; past.
"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...etc....It really is a feast for children. I had always heard the phrase, but never have I appreciated the truth of it until this year, when Henriette is now old enough to take delight in the decorations, lights, and trees springing up all over Toronto. Commercial as some and many of these displays may seem to be, and are, the delight in Henriette's eyes is so genuine-sparking-smiling-lips-joyous squeals-that soppy as this may sound, just watching her reactions make my heart turn over, and make me feel as if that this...really this...was what I was born to experience, and if I never saw another thing, this would have been enough to have lived for."
[maybe i'll rethink the grinch badge.]
you don't get a god, you get a man. and with 22 letters you get to slowly dismantle the pedestal you kept him on for 33 years, slowly, board by board. and in doing so, become closer to yours.
everything in its time.
on a day like today.