Can you really reach deep into your Dad's heart by asking one question as a little girl? Do you automatically become daddy's girl, when you surely are not mommy's? At ten, can you be surprised when even a mean daddy shows he has a heart, or something even more special than that?
It all starts late in the day. Poor mom, stuck at home with you plural - the love child plus three more. You have sensed her simmering anger bubbling closer to the top with each day this fourth year in school. Listening to her on the phone with Grandma, "How much more of this can I take?" and wondering what will be next.
Finally, that day, it all boiled over...The whole mess ending up much like the skimmings of that day's ubiquitous boiled potatoes (on the weekdays served without seasoning or gravy). They had pushed up and out of what should have been an appropriate vessel, spewing a spattered starchy coating that immediately stuck to too many places. Later, it was frustratingly difficult to remove, even with the utmost vigilence.
It was right then, as swift and nasty as the steam burn from the lifted lid, the cooking mother throws the terrible truth in your ten-year-old face: "I hate you, you have ruined my life". Flung horribly at you, you could only think to look to see if at least some of the potatoes remained in the pan. They were still there, plenty enough to feed you, the unknowing scapegoat, with a small part of all that was wrong with her life.
It all was so mean-faced, high-voiced, and scary...You run to hide under the dining room table, with its ever fortunate four-cornered tent cloth, tears rolling down your cheeks, not knowing what could come next. And thinking, thinking so very hard: How did I ruin her life? What did I do wrong? Mentally ticking off, then discarding the possiblities: No, I get good grades; No, I don't get in trouble at school; No, I clean the house, do the laundry, even cook dinner when asked. Oh -- should I have been cooking today?
No, little one, but that might have helped...In reality, ten is too young to figure out that all this has happened because you are the so-called love child of two very unhappy people. You were only old enough to know that something was very wrong. Mom just didn't like you very much so it was easier to rationalize that it was your fault for her ruined life...
Yes, it sure did feel like Mom hated me, but why would that be so? What can my mom really blame me for -- something so terrible that I have ruined her life? What is it? How can I find out? Who can I ask?
Not my father. No, I am too afraid of him. Will he spank me, yell at me, yell at mom, leave again for three nights? No, I don't want to find out so much that I might have to cry that hard. Or, listen to my mom crying - inconsolable. Watch my mom - afraid. Ask all the wrong questions and have nothing to tell my sibs. Lay awake at night, listening for the pale blue VW bug slowly crawling up the drive. Yes, he comes back, but will he the next time?
So, on this goes until too much pain, too many tears, too many days under the table...I creep up the stairs to find dad shaving. "Dad, can I ask you something". He looks at me, unsmiling, well-of-course-what-is-it? I pause, not sure of myself, uncertain but steeled for the answer. Trembling with tears welling - "Dad, why did mom say I ruined her life?"
Him looking at the tears pouring down, then, "What else did she say?" That she hates me, daddy...my heart pounding all the while in my fear....
But, mean dad surprised me. He was tender, he was loving. He would talk to mom. Of course, she didn't hate me, it would be OK.
"Will it really, Daddy?"
Dad talked to Mom, Mom was very nice for a few days -- she had to be. But from that day forward, Dad was a little more attentive, more aware of me and mom and the mess we were together...
He tried his best to clean it up, patch it up. To this day, a little sad for the tormented relationship between two people he loves. Thankfully, now as then, still fully aware that I still need sometimes to be daddy's girl. And, for that, I am forever grateful. Happy Father's Day, Dad!