Tuesday, May 21, 2002

"I need you so
That I could die
I want you so
And that is why
Whenever I want you,
All I have to do
Is dream."

I used to have dreams about my father and me acting like a father and daughter. I used to have dreams that he loved me and I loved him back, and we had a beautiful relationship involving all the wonder and ideals of old family sitcoms on ABC. I told Mr. Ladd about them, and he said that he thought dreams were a big deal- that they're part of ourselves trying to tell us what we really want most in life.

What I really wanted most in life was my father back.

The first time I saw the movie I watched tonight- Riding In Cars With Boys- I was stunned by it's beauty and truth. I watched myself, I watched my sister, I watched my pain dance over the screen like a mortal ballet, and I was transfixed. And I cried, there in the theater: loud, undeniable sobs with tears that ran down my face like thin red paint. I cried as I was leaving, and calmed down as Ricky, Jenn and I all got into the car and drove to a late-night Wal*Mart trip. On the way, I was explaining to them about this one time in the car with my father and my family, driving home from Florida: it was late, and everyone was frustrated because we couldn't get to a hotel. I thought out loud to myself that I would like to have chocolate milk, and my father mistook it for a request and was indignant that I would dare ask for something like that when everyone was so on edge. He started screaming that I was stupid, that I was horrible, that my saying stupid things like that were what was ruining the whole vacation. He went on for probably three minutes, and we all sat there in the truck and had to listen to it. My mother couldn't calm him down. My sister and I were too shocked to say anything. When he finally stopped, I couldn't control my tears, but I didn't want him to hear me cry- I pretended to listen to Boys II Men, turning the volume up loud enough so that even coming from my headphones it would help to cover the noise, then I put the headphones around the back of my head and stifled my crying into a blanket.

That was the worst thing my father ever did to me.

The car ride was silent for the rest of the ride, until we pulled into a hotel, and I can still remember driving up to it and parking, and being alone with my sister. She turned to me and told me that she never realized how much she hated him until that moment, and I cried more. After we got settled into our rooms, I was hungry, so my father took me down to the restaurant to eat, and I had to be alone with him until my sister came down. I was terrified.

My father and I had always had a horrible relationship, not often as bad as that, but certainly nothing to combat it with goodness: he never apologized or said anything about it, beyond my sister and I, it was never even acknowledged.

When we pulled into Wal*Mart, I was crying again. Jenn calmed me down and Ricky put my arm around me is we walked in. While we were in Wal*Mart, we ran into Mark, shopping with his family. His father and his brother were standing near him, behind his mother. She seemed to lead them all, leaning over the cart and pushing it forward. I hadn't seen her, or any of them, for a while, and I don't remember if I smiled in acknowledgement or actually said hello to anyone but Mark, but I took note of all of them, and of her.

A few weeks later, she died suddenly of a heart attack.

It was a hard time for Mark, it still is, and I did try, and have tried, to be there for him as much as I possibly can. He, in turned, talked to me several times about making peace with my father, telling me that he'd learned you never know how much time you have, you never know when something may happen. His talking to me about it was only an affirmation of something that I had been thinking about a lot, and I knew it was important that I start fixing things. This was one of the many reasons that I went back to seeing Mr. Ladd, as I hadn't in years: It was time to start making things right in my life.

Mr. Ladd and I devoted a lot of time to talking about how important it was that I change things with my father. I traced with him, as well as on my own, a lot of my problems back to my dad, and I knew that future problems were just going to continue to develop. But I didn't have the courage to change anything.

It was probably about a month ago now that I woke up to screaming- my father and my sister, more intense than it normally was. There's only so many times I can go back and describe the events of that morning, maybe one day I'll post some of what I wrote to Mitch about it on here, but to make a long story short, I got up instinctively to protect my sister, more fragile than I, from what seemed to be developing into a more emotionally deep argument than normal, but when I got to the top of the stairs, I froze, hearing something that I had never heard once in my entire life: my father told my sister he loved her.

No, he screamed it. And she screamed back. I remember some of what they said, but I wasn't listening: I was standing, dumbfounded at the top of the stairs. I went back into the room, this room, and I turned on the computer, intending to post on this, of all things to do. But before I could, I fell into the sobs, and down, and sat on the chair as a ball, and I cried, I cried.

My sister came up eventually, and held me to her. I looked up at her, and I said the only thing either of us was thinking: "He told you." She began to cry, too, not for the first time that morning, and we stayed there like that until my father walked in. He asked why were crying and we didn't replied. He sat down on the bed across the room and stared at us. He asked again. My sister, this time, left me to walk over and touch him. She began to talk to him like the little girl she truly was in that moment, to tell him how long we'd been waiting for him to tell us that he loved us. She called him "Daddy" and burroughed herself into his arms- I had never seen her so young. He sat there and held her, telling her of course he loved us, of course, and after a moment they both looked up, and held their arms out to me. I couldn't go- I couldn't even make eye contact with them. I got up and left the room.

I went outside, barefoot, and I walked through the wet grass and the cold morning aimlessly, wondering what parallel dimension had just taken over my life. I walked through the grass, then to the driveway, than slid down against the side of my sister's car and cried again. Eventually I got up, went inside to get a coat and some money, and ignoring my mother's demands for an explanation, I went to Kitty Korner.

From the payphone there I called Mr. Ladd, but I got his voicemail, as I expected, and lost the nerve to speak. I hung up the phone, stood for a moment, then immediately looked for two more quarters to call again. I couldn't find them and had to go in and buy a soda to break a dollar. I came back out and left a message on his machine, completely incoherent through my choking sobs. He told me later that he didn't undrstand a word, except that at the end I told him to call back and check up on my later.

I went home, into the house, and my sister asked me if I was okay, and told me that I was stupid for leaving- she wasn't angry, she just couldn't understand. I went into my room and my father tried to talk to me, to apologize for yelling, and I told him that it was okay, that that wasn't it. He didn't know what to say and left. My mother came in and layed down next to me in my bed, and asked me what was wrong, and tried to tell me that my father did love me, that he didn't know how to say it. She was stroking my hair and crying a little, and swearing to me that he would do anything for me. Anything at all. I told her the one thing I knew for sure- that I didn't know that. That he had never told me.

After a while, she left, and then I was alone for a time before my father came in again. This time he made more of an effort to say what he needed to. He rambled about things, about not minding that I dyed my hair, and about things had done wrong. He told me that most of the time he had only stayed away from me because he thought that was what I had wanted, because he was afraid of messing me up. I was crying, and he was trying not to- he kept asking me for tissues. He said that he thought I was alright, wasn't I alright? I said no, and he asked what I had needed. I told him I needed a father. He kept rambling, almost senselessly, saying over and over again that he of course he loved me, that he wasn't perfect, that I shouldn't allow him to mess me up. He said of course he loved me and Cathy. He would die for us.

It felt like a long time, or too short of time, I don't know. After a while, he ran out of things to say and began to realize that he was repeating himself. He asked if I wanted to hug or something, told me he didn't know what to do, and I said he could go.

You should see Riding in Cars with Boys, so I don't want to give away too much, and perhaps you shouldn't read the next sentence if you don't know what happens already, but in the end there is a scene where the song her and her father used to call theirs, before so many things happened to them, before they were emotionally seperated- the song, "Dream", comes on, when they are in the car together- she is an adult now, and he has grown older, and there's so much there that they've done wrong. But the song comes on, and they start singing it, softly. And he holds out his arm for her, and she scoots closer to him, and leans into him, and they're both still singing. Nothing is said, but when the line comes "I need you so", they both look at each other in such a way...you know that they're telling each other what they need to. Maybe not outright, but it's there.

"I need you so
That I could die.
I love you so,
And that is why
Whenever I want you
All I have to do
Is dream
Dream dream dream

I haven't had a dream about me and my father since that day. Nothing's been said to acknowledge it, either, but he forwards me e-mails of jokes people send him online, and he'll ask me how I am every now and then, make a little conversation, show me that he knows I'm there. I never told him I loved him back, and I mean to. It's important.

But life just keeps going on and on. Stories are just little parts of it.

On with it.