My rust bucket of a Renault barely made it into the driveway as the sun peeked from below the earth for one last burst of light. I parked at the entrance to the house, where dad’s car used to sit. My bright green-dyed jeans gave me my college appearance again; the way I looked when Dad was the only man in my life, before I met Tom. I walked through the overgrown shrubbery to the porch and watched as dad swayed his worn out blue glider back and forth. He was wearing mom’s pink slippers, the ones she left next to the door for him in case he forgot his own, and her lavender shawl was draped across his shoulders. Through the front window I could see mom cooking. She had always looked young for her age, but now she seemed to have surpassed it. The faint scent of roasted pork wafted through the open front door. Dad’s favorite. Mom hated roasted pork and only cooked it on special occasions or as a bribe and I knew this was no special occasion.
I dumped the carved pumpkin my daughter made with my husband, Tom, before he left for what he told us was a business trip (of course I knew better) onto the leaning front post and squatted next to dad. The leaves crinkled under my feet and I could see the pile of twigs he’d thrown into the corner. The paint of his chair peeled off onto my fingers.
“Hey, daddy, it’s me, Allison.” Dad shifted in his glider but went back to his yellowing newspaper, a paper he had saved from three years ago right before his and mom’s 50th wedding anniversary. He lost weight since the last time I’d seen him and his hair was unkempt; something he refused to let happen when I was younger. I placed my hand onto his shoulder and he flinched away. “Do you want to see a picture of your granddaughter, Tay?” I took her picture out of my wallet and held it up for him. His paper lowered and he snatched the photo from my hands.
“Allison,” he said.
“Yeah dad, it’s me, Allison.” I reached for his hand, but he shook his head and pointed at the picture.
“It’s Allison. It’s my daughter, Allison.” I was caught off guard. Sure, people have told me Tay had my face and my eyes, but dad always told us we were uniquely beautiful and he could never mix the two of us up. He’d defend us by saying Tay had Tom’s nose and dimpled chin. I reached for the picture, but dad cradled it to his chest. The paper slipped off of his lap and onto the floorboards.
“No, Daddy, that’s Tay.” He didn’t respond. His hands shook.
“What are you doing here?” Mom said, startling me. She stood on the other side of the screen door. “I wasn’t expecting you today. Are you staying for dinner?” She fidgeted with the pocket of her apron and took care not to look me in the eye.
We never really had a great relationship. She’d try to get me to help her clean up around the house when I was younger, but I was a rebellious child. I’d scream at her until Dad came and took me to the backyard to calm down. He’d tell Mom that I was his little adventurer and on a secret mission to find a hidden cave full of treasures and couldn’t be in the house right then. As I had gotten older, I hid behind the bushes lining our house and listen to mom and dad argue about me, Mom felt I was too much like my dad. She wanted to teach me how to knit and crochet, but Dad believed his little girl should “have a mind of her own.” Dad pushed me to be more independent, but mom wanted a perfect housewife for a daughter; one who could cook, give her six grandkids, sew cute outfits, and actually keep a room clean. I was none of these things. I loved my job and my takeout meals, but maybe she had a point. Maybe Tom wouldn’t have snuck around if I had been better on the home front.
“You know what? I think I will. Thanks,” I said through the screen door. “I just came to see if I could talk to dad, but dinner sounds great.” Mom mumbled something. She grabbed one of the blue porcelain salad plate’s dad had bought when he was in Korea off of the display case next to the door before turning back to the kitchen.
“Where’s Tay tonight? Did you pawn her off on a neighbor again?” Mom asked peering out the kitchen window.
“She’s doing a project at a friend’s house.” Mom went back to her cooking and I finally had my five minutes with dad. He was in the exact position as before, except the picture was sitting on the arm of his chair. Dad looked up at me. The green of his iris’s shone brightly.
“Tay says hi,” I said tapping the picture. “She wanted me to tell grandpa how much she misses him and loves him.” I paused. The tears threatened to spill over and onto my cheeks. “She’s twelve now. She’s got your stubbornness and mom’s sarcasm.” Mom’s shawl slid down Dad’s arm and I pulled it over him again. “She wanted to come today, but she’s working on a project right now.” I took a breath and watched the shadows flicker off of dad’s arm. He brushed my hair out of my face and lowered his hand to my shoulder.
“Allison, you’re home.” His hand dropped and he picked his paper off of the floor. A smile crept onto my face.
“Yes, I’m home. I really need to talk to you, dad.” Dad shifted in his seat, but he didn’t glance my way. He flipped the paper to the comics, his favorite section. “Tom wants a divorce, Daddy, and I don’t know what to do. I still love him, but he hurt me.” The tears started pouring and I buried my head into my dad’s shoulder. I felt a hand soothing my hair. “He said I didn’t give him what he needed, and now he wants a divorce. He cheated on me. I should want the divorce more than him…shouldn’t I?” Dad’s cupped hand fell into his lap. All I wanted was to hear Dad whisper how mom had wrangled him back in right before they had me. I wanted to see those clear eyes fill again and feel his belly laugh resonate through the porch floorboards. We used to gallop across this porch with sticks between our thighs. He’d whip his horse into motion and grasp mine from behind tipping me into his arms. He was always so playful, he hated sitting longer than ten minutes, but now that’s all he did.
From the corner of my eye I saw a flash of movement. Mom hustled by the window with a frown on her face. My mind swam with the idea of her overhearing me. When I was a kid she always took things wrong. I remember when I brought home my art project in third grade. I was so excited to show her. I won second place in the art show, and my teacher asked if I could have mom sign a permission slip so she could hang it up in the classroom. I raced into the kitchen with the goofiest grin on my face. I looked like an overjoyed tomato, like the one Tay used to love watching on that kid show “Veggie Tales.” Before I could share my good news mom yelled at me. Her face scrunched into a glower as she flung her spaghetti sauce spoon around like she was directing an orchestra and screamed about how I was making a mess in her kitchen. A splotch of red landed on my painting and the horse morphed into an obese cow. Its chocolaty mane was completely covered with tomato sauce.
~Excerpt from Forgetting Dad~