I woke up out of sorts again today, fresh from dreaming about being in Portland with Scottie. He was showing us animals he was raising. They were white and fluffy, but other than that I can’t recall what kind of animal they were. Not sheep. Maybe goats? My dad was there, and he picked up one of the animals (strange in and of itself, since my dad has never willingly touched an animal in his life) and set it across his shoulders. The fluffy white thing turned into a young woman in a black and gold gown, a black, velvet ribbon at her throat. She balanced there a moment, then dad lifted her on his palm, like a circus performer. She wobbled a little but said, “Steady, steady.” In the background, Scott and I tried (and failed) not to laugh, because even in dreams we knew it was a really strange sight. And then I woke up, or rather, Frank woke me. I don’t like sleeping late. It throws off the rest of my day. I never thought I’d become such a creature of habit. Of daily ritual. But I have.
Gads, I miss my son. It’s been five months and fifteen days since that Sunday in March I hugged him good-bye. An adventure for him, one he needed so desperately. This is his time, and I am as thrilled for him as I am sad for myself. More thrilled than sad, in fact. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating–I was never a mother who wanted, or expected, to keep her kids forever. Fly! Be free!
When we were in France, on our last night in Cannes, my dad raised his glass and said he wanted to propose a toast. We all had the same thought, I expect, that it would be to the wonderful time we had together. But he said, “To my son, who I love more than life.” I will admit, it stung just a little. Sitting beside him, I teasingly and tentatively said, “Daddy?” Without missing a beat, though slightly red-cheeked, he looked at me and said, “Oh, honey. I always have you.”
I know my dad. I know how much he loves me and my sister. I also know he’s always related better to the boys, as would a man raised in the era he was raised in. But I also know his actions have always spoken louder than words that–despite being a gifted lawyer–didn’t always respond emotionally. This morning, after my dream and realizing how much I miss both my sons so intensely every day, I came to realize something, and it stems from that old adage, “A son is a son til he takes a wife. A daughter’s a daughter the rest of your life.”
It’s what he’s always believed, that he’d lose his sons one day to another family set. To distance. To something. And he didn’t. Strangely enough, though one brother did go out to California twice in his life, for several years at a time, he’s now living within ten minutes of my parents. My other brother has never lived more than half an hour from them. His daughters, though? I’m in Connecticut and my sister is in New Paltz. Close, but not close enough for a drop in.
But I got it. After a few weeks pondering that toast and comment–because though first impressions might sting, they’re seldom what they seem–I understand, and it’s because he put me in charge of planning our cruise next March. I’D get my brothers in line. I’D make all the arrangements. I’D see to it we all got to the same place at the same time. Because I’m the daughter. His peacekeeper (always have been, always will be.) “I always have you.”
You have to know my parents, or at least me, to understand them. Words are easy. They’re safe. They’re often not what is meant at all. Actions are harder, truer, and make a far more lasting impression. Dad isn’t perfect, and sometimes he says things he shouldn’t. Sometimes I feel like I don’t matter as much as my brothers. Growing up a girl during the time I did, with parents caught in their own upbringings, I’m left with a few hiccups that jolt me now and then. But you know what? I’m over it. Who I am now is the direct result of my past, ALL of my past, and I really like me.
I’ve been out of sorts since waking, and so here I am, sorting myself out. Dad picking up that fluffy white animal in my dreaming, in missing my son, in that animal turning into a girl balanced on his palm like a circus performer might not mean anything at all. Or it could mean a whole lot. I choose to see the meaning there. And now I’m no longer disoriented. See how that works? Off to write.