I grew up not knowing my father. He was around, sometimes... in and out like the tide that called to him from far off shores. But his absences were so many and lasted for so long that I never remembered what he looked like. I remember visualizing him as Kris Kristofferson or Lee Majors.
When he'd visit us, I'd fall in love with him all over again. Like my mother. And when he'd leave, I mourned in my own way. Closed myself off to people. Retreated to a safe place in my mind. Retreated into books and poetry.
When I was seventeen I found out he'd remarried and had a baby. A boy. My Brother Talmadge James.
He invited me down south for a visit with his new family. I remember being excited. And full of shame... because my mother, my sweet eccentric mother, was ultimately betrayed by his new life.
The flight was bumpy. And when I got off the plane in southern land I found him, his bright green eyes, through what seemed like an endless sea of people.
His eyes told me the story of a thousand days. He wasn't expecting me. He was expecting a little girl. I'd somehow disappointed him.
When we arrived at his small apartment I met my stepmother and my baby brother. It was awkward and all I wanted to do was go home.
They'd decided to give me their bedroom for my stay. I unpacked my things, wondering how on earth I could be connected to these strangers.
And then I opened the top drawer of my father's nightstand.
There was a dog eared copy of Dandelion Wine.
I looked up and my dad was standing in the doorway.
"It's my favorite book," he said.
I quietly went to my open suitcase and pulled out my own copy. The book I read and re-read. My safe place. A story I'd used in order to escape my own life.
"Well, I'll be damned," he said.