My father remains a mystery. Especially, and of course, now that he’s gone, I would like more than ever to talk with him, learn from him his stories, his chapters, the events that made up his life, the book that is Henry Lee, the thoughts that he had at each turn of those events. The day he graduated from high school would be good, his first kiss, moving to Wisconsin, all of his experiences in the war.
There are so many things I’d like to know that I’ll never know, no matter how much I talk with him now when he’s not here. Our extended pretend conversations, me sitting out on the lanāi drinking beer, asking questions, dreaming up answers, and when I’ve had more than a few, carrying on both sides of the conversation, sometimes out loud.
My father was like duct tape. He could patch up almost anything, almost, be it a pipe or a person. He could wrap his arms around me tight and make me feel safe. He was like body glue for me, when I was very young.
He never said “I love you.” Neither did I. I’m sure we did love each other. I think we did. But we were men, so we shook hands, on occasion. Silence. Our own code of silence. We slipped into abiding by it early.
We never even hugged on his birthdays. We were not touchy-feely, my father and I. He may have been before I knew him, maybe before the war, and when I was very young, as I say, he hugged me. Often. I remember how he used to carry me around, bounce me on his knee.
That changed. Given who we grew into, it had to, right?
The last time my father touched me was when he and my mom and I posed for my graduation picture in December 1992. I’d just finished my English Ph.D. at UH Mānoa. I stood in the middle of the two, my mom’s arm around my waist, my dad’s around my shoulder. My dad was already exhibiting signs of dementia. I hoped so hard that he understood what had happened there.
He still remembered how to pose for photos.
Even when he went into the nursing home where he lived the last three years of his life, we never touched.
Once my boss told me how she would go to her mom’s nursing home and give her massages. I could not give my father massages even though I knew he loved to be massaged. I would do this for him when I was younger. Back massage, foot massage. He loved to have his back scratched, too.
The last time I touched my father, was at the viewing. I laid my hand on his chest, just before they screwed down the lid, and wished that I could say, “I love you.” But I couldn’t. It didn’t look like him anymore, anyway. It seemed almost as if I were touching someone else.
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Aloha #WriterWednesday, I hope you are well wherever you may be. Today’s writing prompt is
Use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece as a comment below. I would love to ready what you write : )