Saturday, August 20, 2011

The house was quiet.  The kids were out playing by the pond and my mother was at the grocery store. Peter was working a temporary job on an Air Force base about four hours away, so we only saw him on weekends.  We were living in a twenty year old rv parked my parents' backyard until we found out where we going to be permanently located with the Air Force.  It was a trying time, living day by day with no answers.  But it was a good time too. Lazy days spent fishing with a few hours of homeschooling and lots of Maw Maw and Paw Paw time for the kids.

The phone call came about mid morning.  Uncle Jim stated, plain as day, "Your dad passed away last night."

I was in the kitchen, and I looked around at the shelves by the ceiling decorated with old tin cans and boxes of Ritz Crackers and Cracker Jacks.  "Oh, okay. Thanks for letting me know." 

He paused a second and seemed a bit baffled when he said, "When are you coming up?" 

Looking at the red and white ceramic salt shakers of a fat old man and a fat old woman kissing, centered perfectly on the small round kitchen table where so many meals were shared, I said, "I'm not."

He didn't say anything, I didn't say anything.  Finally, since he was just trying to be nice, I added, "I already told Aunt Connie I wasn't coming back."

"You're not coming to your own dad's funeral?"

"No." I'm a talker, so this brevity is a shocker, even to me. But I didn't feel the need to elaborate.  I felt nothing. "But thanks for letting me know.  Please tell the family I'm sorry for their loss."  The family. Not me. I'm not family.

We hung up, and I started to head out the back door when I saw him. On the porch. My stepdad was sitting in his favorite chair, the gnarled bare feet obtained from the lifetime of hard work propped on the rail, sipping his iced tea and fanning himself with his silly straw hat.  My armor cracked a little.

"Thank you, Father.  Thank you for not taking Donald. He's my dad."

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