The weird(est) thing about my dad – not the carpenter, but my actual, biological father – was how frightfully clear he made it that he had no interest in his family. He didn’t even try to fake it. He didn’t appear to be unhappy in his marriage, just utterly incapable of emotion. My father was concerned with: the race track, playing cards, various foot- and baseball games, and calling numbers at the Bingo. In that order. No thought for his wife and two girls – an implacable indifference that did not result in a lot of childhood reminiscences, fond or otherwise. The few pre-carpenter memories I have involve mainly my sister and my mother. We hardly ever saw my father.
Three things I do recall:
(1) He used to take us to the crik to feed the duckies;
(2) One time, when I was about six, my dad announced he was going to do the kiddy crossword with us, and I got so excited (‘cause he would let us sit on his lap and everything) that in my haste in running back toward the living room after screaming the news upstairs to my sister, I caught my heel under the corner of the big white metal kitchen cabinet and tore the whole thing off. My heel, not the door. Well, it was hanging on by a tendon. (The cabinet that housed all the snacks and treats I could not keep myself from eating, that made me look like a fat ugly cow in my purple-and-white, horizontal-striped turtleneck in my class pictures. I had to fill myself with something.) And as they drove me to the hospital bleeding buckets and the doc sewed my heel back onto my foot, as I sobbed and howled, my dad calmly and comfortingly told me a story about a black panther and was the only one who could console me.
(3) My father would sit at the dinner table eating steak while we three had hamburger.
When we snuck out of my mom and dad’s brand-new home to go live with the carpenter who had built it, my mother left a note for my father. We girls waited while she composed the note, and my seven-year-old mind decided she must be leaving him some riddles, and if he could solve the riddles we would come back to him and all live in the brand-new house with the specially painted rooms instead of the shabby little pea-green apartment the next town over and everything would be okay.
But the riddles were never solved. Not by my father or anyone else. And when we went back to say one last goodbye, my father – who had no care for his family and was incapable of emotion – dropped to his knees and opened his arms for my sister and I to rush into. And when we did, he bawled like a baby – howling there on the top stair of the foyer the carpenter had built.
I guess that makes four things I remember about my dad.