My Dad had called me earlier in the week to check on how we were all doing. He was just running out the door to take my sister to gymnastics, so I told him I would call him over the weekend. I called him yesterday to catch up on what was going on with the family. I only speak to him and my mother (his first wife). He has become my link to the family grapevine. It’s our habit to call occasionally and fill eachother in on what’s happening. As usual, he throws in a few hints that I should come back to Texas to be closer to him. For a few seconds, I actually consider it. We both know that I won’t, but it doesn’t stop us from entertaining the idea.
We were about to say good-bye. The tone in his voice changed. My dad has one of those deep, rumbly, boisterous voices. It’s the kind of voice that can make you laugh just by the way he speaks or can scare the living daylights out of you if he’s mad. I knew he was close to tears. Biology may separate us, but we couldn’t be more alike or know each other any better. He told me he’s missed me more than usual. I felt it, too, but haven’t said anything. Not liking to leave things unsaid, I told him I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately and needed to come see him as soon as possible. I told him I suddenly felt in a hurry to talk to him, then I blurted it out. “Dad, I need to talk to you about Vietnam.” It just fell out of my mouth. “I need to know what happened.”
There was no second of silence, no uncomfortable pause, just a simple, “Yes, I know. When you come down, we’ll sit and have a long father/daughter talk.” So it was out now and it wasn’t as heart-wrenching as I had anticipated all these years. I think we both knew it was coming and have prepared for it. It was anti-climactic as it should be.
I know in his head, he’s going over the conversation in his mind, just as I am. We will try to think of what we’ll say and try to predict what the other will say. We’ll plan everything in our minds only to have it fall apart and be lost to spontaneity when the time actually comes to sit down. It will be one step closer to closing the circle and we both know it has to be done. I thought of taking a camera or a tape recorder, since I know I’ll be too distracted to take notes. It seems invasive when I consider it, so I’m in a bit of a dilemma.
Age-wise, Dad is in the twilight of his life and I am beginning the middle stage of mine. Life no longer seems endless like it did when we were very young. Being human, we become more aware of our mortality as we grow older. Life could end any moment, but I can’t go through life dwelling on it. I try to think in the long term while keeping it in the back of my mind.
I believe that we are all connected by threads of something; spirit, experience, feelings. It’s like a web that connects us to all of creation. Some ties are so strong, they are almost tangible while others are so weak, you aren’t aware of them. The ties between Dad and I are strong but they have loose ends. As we both become more aware of the inevitable, there is this sudden hurry to tie up those loose ends; to say all that needs to be said so neither of us is left hanging. My dad is one of those people who are deeply spiritual but aren’t really aware of it. While I wear my heart on my forehead, he stuffs his in the toolbox of his truck.
So the wait begins while we go on with our everyday lives, vibrations of old ties being reconnected or reinforced humming in the backs of our brains. We’ll sing along and dance the familiar dance; father and daughter, teacher and student, ancestor and descendant. We’ll harmonize our voices, match each other’s steps as he prepares me to carry the threads that he will lay down when he moves on. I hope I carry them well.