Grape Jelly

It is a familiar view…

Every morning my Dad had bacon and eggs with two pieces of toast…always with grape jelly.  I remembered that this morning, two or three decades later, as I ate the same breakfast (minus the bacon).  A wave of sadness came over me as I saw his face in my mind’s eye and again realized that my father and I didn’t know each other.   I think we wanted to but just didn’t know how to go about such a daunting task.  Instead we pretended a type of polite friendliness which kept us at the surface of who we might be.

As he aged, he got heavy…a beer belly and rather short.  He did things in patterns.  The grass had to be cut in a pattern and in a certain order with other yard chores, for example.  I don’t know if that was because of his military background, if he was OCD or if the pattern was banged into his head as a child.  Maybe a bit of all three.

I was in school in Florida and I knew he had been “sick.”  At my young age, sick to me equaled out to a cold and a few sneezes.  When I got off the plane, I saw a man shrunk!  He looked even shorter and was very small and weighed less than me, by sight.  Had he been muscular, I would have called him trim…but he was just plain shrunk.  My first reaction was “Wow, you look great” (being true to that phony all-is-well façade).  He had a look in his eyes, though, that told me it was more than a cold and a few sneezes.  His eyes were sad, longing for what cannot be recovered.  That was the first moment, a very fleeting moment, that I let myself feel his and my loss of each other.  It was a recognition between us.  He sensed he was on the way out…and so did I.

Looking back with years of experience in finding my own voice, I now often remember those moments of connectedness.  We each wanted to reach out but fumbled and lost the opportunity.  No fault.  It was the times.  Communication consisted of yelling, demanding and slamming door or running away.  That’s how it was in our household.

There were many times my Dad came to my rescue and held me as a child.  He could do that much.  It was just when I started talking and challenging that the extreme avoidance came.   He didn’t know what to do with a girl that was growing up and filling out.  I confused him.  He scared me.  We both withheld.

There was no doubt in my angry adult-mind that it was HIS fault I always had to wear short hair as a kid when I wanted to look like Susan Bolty.  We were in the 5th grade and she was very pretty.  I just envied how she stood there with a sway in her back and wearing those black patent leather shoes all the time (while I had to save mine for Sunday church).  Mom had told me that Dad didn’t like long hair because it left hair in the sink.  (What?)  So, I always had this short “bob” of a cut and it just added fuel to my not-having-a-horse anger.

Funny what memory does to reality.  Two days ago, I found my 5th grade picture and was jaw-dropping shocked to see me with long hair.  I trembled.  How could I have been so wrong in my memory?  My hair was just as long as Susan’s!  I stared at the picture for a long time trying to bring back memories but none came other than remembering the hairband that was keeping my hair in order.  It was midnight blue velvet.   As I stared at my picture, I felt confused, embarrassed and ashamed for being so mad at my Dad.  Oh, my gosh, both Mom and Dad allowed me to have long hair…I mean long…past my shoulders.  Did I make up all my childhood traumas?  No, I just made up some…maybe.

I guess a kid’s anger and memory get mushed into something symbolic to them, like being angry for having to wear short hair.  It’s an interesting observation.  Fresh insight into events that didn’t happen and that I wrote in stone in my mind’s eye.

Once again life’s path led me in a surprising and unexpected direction, gifting me with an embrace of clarity and bitter sweetness.

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