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I Am a Lot Like Him.

I drive to my childhood home. It has a side door and a vine that my father has to tame every year, before putting Christmas lights up. The side door is not always open.  Tonight it is.  I let myself in and the blonde German Shepherd we call Jazz is waiting at the top of the stairs.  She is still young and spazzy.  I walk up the stained wooden stairs and coo at her. “Hi Jazz!  I love you so much!  You’re just so cute.”  My voice is higher than usual.  Her ears are up and her tail is wagging.  I make it to the top of the stairs. I reach my hand out to pet her head, in between her ears. It’s where my lips generally touch her soft fur. She rolls to the ground, in one swoop of her long body.  She pleads with her eyes.  I crouch lower and rub her belly.

The house is empty and I feel like a guest.   I am not left alone long with this feeling. The garage door opens.  My father walks up the same stairs. His voice is higher as he coos at Jazz.  She is his.

He carries two Scrimshaws in his right hand.  “Hey Taylee.”  He says with a big smile revealing his front chipped tooth.

“Hi Daddy.”

“You want one?”  He reaches over the white tiled counter and hands me one of the beers.

He changes in his room, where Hannah and I used to sleep when we had bad dreams.  He comes back in cargo shorts and a worn tee shirt and bare feet.    He opens the tall cupboard and takes out the tortilla chips.  They’re the kind that Albertson’s makes daily.  My mom always complains that he and I eat too many of them.  I am a lot like him.

We sit down on either side of the kitchen table, which has similar white tiles as the counters.  We each have our Scrimshaw and the chips are between us.  We eat too many.

“Did I ever read you what I read for Grandaddy’s Eulogy?” Grandaddy is a man who finds his way into many conversations, recently.  Death has that effect on people.

“Yeah I think so.”

“Uncle Clark called today and it reminded me of that day.”  He was referring to the day of my grandfather’s funeral.  I could not be there because I was in Thailand.  But my dad skyped me one humid day, sometime before the funeral. He read me his eulogy.  His face froze in contorted expressions, but his voice willed its way through our poor connection.  He read it to me because he wanted my opinion. He asked me as a writer.

My dad is good at this.  He relates to my sister and I based on our interests, because gender has left a gap between us.

I take a sip of my Scrimshaw. His eyes fill with tears. He talks about compliments he received that day for his eulogy.

His tears reminded me of the day I realized death hurt people. It was the day I flew home from Iceland. This was two years ago. He picked me up at the airport in his Subaru. When we got home I looked up from the car. The vine bloated across the stucco. My dad cried with me in the dining room. It was late and we did not turn on the lights.  He hugged me tight in the dark as we looked at a picture of our first blonde German shepherd.  She died young.

“Her job was to get me through the deaths of my parents.  Her job was done.”  He told me as he hugged me tight against his white cotton polo shirt.  We were quiet and stood there in the dark. I understood his tears were for more than our blonde German shepherd. I felt guilty that my eyes were dry.

And silence fills the room now. I smile at him from across the table, unsure of what to say.  Everything I think, feels contrived.  Silence is better.   Despite my stickiness, I appreciate this moment between us. We crunched on chips and drank pilsners, digesting moments with tortilla.


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