Friday, March 20, 2009
Dad came to visit today, just after I finished putting on my mascara. I turned away from the mirror and there he was in the hallway by all the family photographs. He held out a healthy warm arm. "Care to dance?"
I slid my fingers between his. "Been away awhile."
"Lots to do."
His right palm pressed into the small of my back as we waltzed, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. His left hand held my right in the air and I twirled and when I finished spinning, he was still there. I pressed my hands onto his chest and felt the beating of his life in my palms.
"I thought you had gone too far," I said. "I thought you'd never come back again. I haven't seen you in years."
"You have too many cats."
"Should have let me bring our first cat in the house."
"Cats belong outside."
I gulp in air, afraid to exhale and blow him back to wherever he came from. But I have to, and I do, and he is still here.
1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3.
"I believed in your life before you were born," he whispered. "Your mother and I. We believed in you before we ever saw you."
1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3.
He was solid today, not a see-through whisper of a man. He was warm and full of healthy bones and blood. I wanted to lay my head on his shoulder, but I knew I couldn't do that. He wasn't really there. He wasn't really there.
My cheekbone hit his collarbone, bone to bone. My nose touched his neck which smelled alive. I let my shoulders fall away from my ears and I wrapped my arms around his body and there was substance in the space between my hands and chest. I traced the outline of his face, his smile, his eyes the only part of him that shone too bright, the only part of him that would have told me:
This is my father, but this is not my father. This is his body, but his heart is not contained by "father." Not contained by "Glenn Herring." Not contained at all, and so it shines cobalt blue light out through his eyes so I will know he is more than he had ever imagined he could be.
"When did you learn how to dance?" he asked.
"When I learned how to grieve," I said.
"When did you learn how to write?"
"When I learned how to be silent."
"When did you learn how to love?"
"When I learned how to let go."
We separate until only our hands are clasped. Don't stay away so long next time, I want to say, but I don't. I breathe. And rather than vanishing, as he's done in the past, he turns, slides his fingers away from mine, and turns toward the stairs.
"I am always dancing with you, sugar."
And as he walked slowly down the stairs and out the door, leaving the space in my house warm and beating and full, I pulled my hands onto my belly, breathed into my bones, and whispered, "Thank you."