There is a picture of my parents on their dark wooden dresser. The old version of a selfie. My dad’s long arm reaches passed our view and and snaps it. Slightly overexposed. Their faces are ripe with youth as the picture and frame are ingested by the fading effects of age. They are close together and rhapsodic. The picture eludes to a time that was less complicated. Less demanding.
They fast-forward 20 years worth of photos. Photos from Halloween as they put on performances of different versions of themselves. Photos with pets that have passed away and daughters that grew up and changed hairstyles. Photos with family members who are still at the Thanksgiving table. Photos of those who are not at the table at Thanksgiving, but thought of severely, because if they are not, then there is nothing left.
Fast-forward 20 years and my father is saving his daughter from a spider on the stair case that will not let her pass. The creature with eight legs and a bright red body, and two eyes the color of an emerald, is looking her in her gray blue eyes and daring her to come closer.
She imagines him jumping and becomes paralyzed with anticipation.
“Hey come look at this spider” She yells to her father, trying to act casual, but hoping he’ll hear her plea for his rescue.
“I’ll come look at it when I am done with the paper” He yells turning the page of the mulched inked paper in his hands.
“You should really come look at this guy!” She says with an urgency that is more obvious.
“Really, could you come get him for me?”
Now he understands. He has always been the rescuer of his daughters from bugs. As he sighs and puts the paper on the glass table on our breezy patio, he walks over to the top stair with a piece of paper. He never kills the bugs his daughters are being rescued from. You can always hear his mood. And his daughter knew that his frustration would not last.
As they both grew older, they understood their similarities better. They understood each other better. At least, she understood him better. Humanizing him was one of the hardest things she has ever done, but she has. As life effects her deeply, she understands him better as a human rather than a father.
He elegantly wraps the invisible web around a white piece of paper. A bill or a letter. He calmly leads himself and the spider to the railing of the back deck. His daughter goes into her room. Stuff is everywhere. She has had to go through her time, choosing what moves with her 20 miles south and what stays in her childhood. She dresses for work quickly, khakis and and a button up blouse. She enjoys androgyny.
The decking is warm under her bare feet. The sun sits in its usual position. She wishes she could bathe in it today. She looks down, looking at the top of her father’s head. She does not like being above him. If feels wrong. He is standing quietly, looking at a spot in the grass. His dog is trying to get him to play, the way that dogs do, unaware of any tragedy.
“What’s wrong?” His daughter asks timidly.
And with that statement his sadness escapes him and travels to her. There is a sense of desperation in his voice. His daughter was uncomfortable trying to comfort him. Instead she denied.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I watched his body explode as he hit the ground. I’m sure.”
She felt his desperation and fled from it. The discomfort of her fortress shattering was too sharp. She would drive for an hour and wipe his tears from her face. She would go to work and be positive for those who have forgotten.
Hopefully tomorrow is better for her and him.