Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Papa was a big man
My grandmother was married twice. Her first marriage ended in a divorce, scandalous at the time and not her choice. The men in our family have a propensity to abandon us and move to Florida. One of the first things I asked Bill when we met was : "Do you like Florida?" When he said "no" I felt safer.
Gram married her second husband before I was born. He was a doctor. He gave my grandmother a fancy life. Fancy houses. Fancy Intercontinental excursions. Fancy high society living.
He had four grown children of his own, but I think he loved my mother in his own way. She frustrated him. He was intolerant and she was strange. He didn't much care for my father. My father left us, why would he like him? I'm pretty sure he cared for his kids. I'm almost positive he cared for their children (my step cousins). But I KNOW he cared for me. I know he loved me.
It was the oddest thing, in retrospect, our relationship. Papa was a big man. Huge. He had a bald head that I liked to rub. He taught me my multiplication tables. He taught me how to tie my shoes. He picked me up and swung me around high in the sky like a daddy is supposed to do.
He let me quietly sit on his lap and watch TV. I snuggled down deep. You can really snuggle a big man when you're a wisp of a little girl. You can snuggle yourself away.
He peeled apples and pears at the dinner table, their skins curling down in spirals and never breaking. Then he'd cut them into slices with a knife. Magic.
My papa loved me best. (And if he didn't? I don't want to know.)
He died when I was ten years old. The very same year my dad took off for his longest absence. The same year I started my period (Too frighteningly soon).
I wore a green dress with black polka dots to his funeral. I remember thinking that my dad would surely come walking over the green carpet of the cemetery and rescue me. I remember looking for him. Looking......
Later, when I was grown, I learned things I didn't want to learn about this man. That he was a bigot and a racist and a bully. It made me wonder if he would have continued to love me as I grew older, less adorable, and more damaged.
And then I realized... perhaps, if he'd stayed alive, the damage wouldn't have been so severe.
Good night Papa, and Happy Fathers day. I don't give a damn who you were to others, or how you were perceived. You gave me love. Real and true. Because you saw me, and I saw you.