“I’ve never ever in my life been more sure my father has his hand in this.” I felt it, almost like seeing it: My entire body became delicate and collapsed in on itself. “Of course.” (Choked on the epiphany) “Of course, he was. He was here. Always has been. I’m certain. Even that sliver of me that doubted my memories, and secretly questioned if I wasn’t embellishing as I so innately sometimes do. No, THIS. This is he. It’s how he would have been.” My tears and the extra mucus now filling my sinuses make my giggle sound more like a snort.
“I can see it perfectly. Me running to him, teenager full of audacity and pride:
‘Look! I’m published! Not just once, but three times in four days, dad!’
He would look at me. Hold my eyes and watch me squirm with anticipation. Knowing that he, who his whole life has told me to follow my passions and make myself independent, would look at me.
“I’m not making enough to support a family yet, but the payment is exposure! I’m literally on the front page of the Sports section! They posted it an hour after I submitted.”
I would say this convincing him of something he hasn’t questioned, revealing my own self-doubt.
He would look at me very still and quiet with a smile that always seemed like the beginning of a laugh or a mocking smirk, the two almost impossible to differentiate.
As I spoke these words to JS , my body would react exactly in moments precisely like the one I’m describing, my body abuzz, agitated and excited, chills flaring my skin and hair.
“It’s a big deal, dad. It is. I mean National. The whole town of haters, forced along with my sister to read, not just hear from me. I am going to be a writer!”
I burst out with a tone that feigns joy and appears like the fact to both of us, persuading pride, not resounding it.
I could hear his voice with a vibration and sound I can’t describe to anyone and as only my heart can hear it.
“Lulu, Were you not a writer before this (he’d always minimize) little website took your work for a nominal fee?”
And there it would be. The truth. The seeming disappointment I was always lead to with him.
No. I know something new now. I’ve pulled back the curtain of a child’s perspective and I can see clearly. His was a position of teaching me. He was teaching me that I was enough. That I always was, could be, and would be…enough. By no name or validation from outside myself. It was the lesson he constantly wrote out in different tones of disinterest, or being unimpressed. The opposite of what “Baby Boomers” so often do these days.
As a mother, a parent, a human being having lived and loved and lost so much, I see. He was probably covering his mouth to whisper to his own mother, my grandmother, Maryam. He told her of the business plan I wrote at 18, to propose my moving to Sydney. He pointed to me when I would affably approach strangers with kindness and beguiling charm as a child.
He (and this is where I really lose it on the therapists couch) is staring at me now. Seeing me as a mother, watching me fumble and try. Almost laughing like a parent does when a child discovers something so simple for the first time. An ability to walk, the first time her motor-skills master the pincer grasp, a boy thinking he could never win a girls smile only to find the surprise of a love-note in his locker. My dad with his mother is pointing now, saying:
I told JS in way less words than I write here, that he was the father who, when I sent him an email about my getting a thirty percent raise at my first job, and how unheard of it was….he responded:
“I’m glad they are acknowledging your value to them as a company, but remember Lulu that however good you are, how fast or smart, there is always someone better, faster or smarter.”
Then he signed it:
“Good luck and be happy, Dad.”
I laughed telling JS this. Not just because it is SO him, just like this situational hilarity of my life as it stands, but because I know the quote. He left out the best part! The most inspiring part of his hacked-up mis-quote was Churchill ending it all with “But never stop trying!”
feel it. Clarity doesn’t arrive in epitaphs from God onto stone atop of a scenic cliff. It doesn’t sing to you with angelic voices. Nope. Mine hit me in my therapist’s office, talking about my chiropractor, who also does genius energy work, merely telling me he was “proud of me.” The revelation I had was messy and hairy and strange. It was not a beaming light shedding golden hue on a new pathway, it was a trip, stumble and then slow-motion cartoon-style rapid movement-attempt to NOT fall, that caught me off guard.
Of course my said dream of being recognized wouldn’t fulfill me and make everything whole. My life is in pieces. Instead it reminded me, or maybe that’s too much of a stretch even. It was finally, after decades of hoping and trying and rejection letters, and unfocused gibberish trying to sound enlightened, that I stood back, looked around, heard the echoing silence and kind words of maybe four people? It was then, and only then that I saw what he did. The lively, confident, very full of self-belief girl.
I saw that I had it - and always have had it. Two things of which I need no permission or conclusive opinion in mass. I will finally figure out how to make my passion a profession. And as important : I won’t fail at parenting. Not even in my lowest moments of doubt and questioning how this is “my life,” I will always, with the conviction of a woman who as a child was given so many very valuable gifts and lessons, impart less harshly and with far more compassion such strength in my own kids.
He has always been here, and he prepared me for this, the longest, most convoluted, winding, U-turn riddled road to myself.