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The girl comes home

My daughter busted in the door this afternoon and quickly flopped down my armchair. I was working there but happened to be up making a cup of coffee when she came in. She was all a chatter about her how fat her cat is and how she is trying to help it lose weight. She went on about her trip to the gym and that she needed the oil in her truck changed. How much did such a thing cost? If I brought the truck over, would you change it for me.

armchairIt’s good you’re going to the gym regularly, I said. Stop feeding your cat. I’m glad you know that the oil in your truck needs to be changed. No. I won’t change it but I will supervise you as you change your oil. You can do that or have Jiffy Lube change it for $30. It’s up to you.

I mind when someone takes the one thing from me that I treasure, I said. My armchair is my solemn space that people can invade but can’t take from me. You have about a minute and a half before I’ll have to ask you to get out, I said.

Gosh, dad, you can be such a butt.

I don’t mind that my daughter just bursts through the front door whenever she takes a notion. That she feels comfortable using my house as refuge makes me happy. It reveals a father-daughter and daughter-family relationship that means a great deal to me. While I don’t always have conversation with her when she comes over, it’s good enough that she comes over, stays for a while, and sometimes overnights in the guest room.

I have the relationship with my daughter that I never had with my parents. After I moved out of my parent’s house, I never went back and never wanted to. I was too busy, I said when my mom asked why I never came over. I had things to do. I worked. I had plans with friends.

Whether that was true or not, I didn’t want to go home. There was nothing there for me. I had broken from my parents’ grasp and didn’t go back for fear that somehow they would get their hooks back into me.

My parents and I have never had a loving, open relationship. My siblings and I just tried to survive. There were beatings. Mom and dad had no compunction about yelling at us at random moments or at the least provocation. My father would start drinking and begin going on about how he would have been a rocket scientist if it had not been for us kids.

What he meant to say was that being a father was more important than being a rocket scientist. But that’s not what he said and that not what we understood. We thought we were in the way. That dad sacrificed his ambitions because was stuck with kids.

By the time I was 20, I was constantly drunk, and when I wasn’t drunk, I was thinking about getting drinking. My father was often drunk, and when I came home after a night of drinking, he berated me, though he was tipsy, for stepping out of line. He threatened to lock me out of the house if I was late again. He knocked me across the face.

I never felt at home when I was home. It was a place to escape, a trap that would take me down if I stayed too long. As soon as I had a car, I spent as little time at home as I could. At the time I moved out of my house, I could not articulate the feelings I had toward years of violent behavior, constant embarrassment, and uneven emotional treatment. I only knew that I wanted nothing to do with those people anymore.

When I moved out of my house, I celebrated my new freedoms by cracking a quart of beer in the morning and passing out in the afternoon. How could I go back home where I’d have to behave myself while watching those people tipple?

The point of this is that Sydney doesn’t feel like she has to behave. There’s no one here to tell her how because she does behave. She understands the delineations between her space and our space and respects the distances between the two. With that in mind, then, she feels comfortable with us.

When she was growing up, I was always afraid. I didn’t know how to be a dad but knew what not to do. I didn’t show doubt or berate myself in front of your kids. I didn’t shut her up when she felt she had something important to say. I didn’t hit or slap her. I didn’t shame her when she made a mistake—and especially when she didn’t make a mistake.

I knew some things to do. I tried to take Syd to do interesting things on the weekends she stayed with me. I took her on walks when we were broke and couldn’t do anything that cost money. We went camping and fishing. I tried to keep her clothes clean and feed her good food. Of course, by the time she was born, I had stopped drinking. She may have seen me engage in behavior I shouldn’t but I was careful not to be too embarrassing when it wasn’t funny and to back off when things stopped being fun.

Since she’s moved out she’s had her problems. She wanted to move back in once, and I told her, no, you have to make do on your own. She hated me at first, but after a few months, she called to thank me. She wouldn’t have done for herself, she said. She would have kept behaving the way she had been and not made a life for herself.

Now, I have Nick. Or, I should say, that Virginia and I have Nick. Raising him is so much easier now that Sydney gave us the experience of being parents. They revel in each other’s company. They shared the house together for a couple of years. They developed a good relationship. She and Nick get on with one another well.

So, when Syd comes through the door and takes up space in my chair, I don’t mind. I’m just glad she feels comfortable here. It makes my house feel like a home.

Now it’s time for me to get her out of my chair.

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