There's a subject that has been glued at the back of my tongue like a sick lump of sinus slop for years. I've either been trying my best to swallow it down and forget about it, or have been saving it to spit out and inspect. This forum seems as good as any, so pardon me while I get out my stick and poke at it.
When I was ten, my dad left me. Literally. I sat on the aluminum folding lawn chair in the empty car port waiting for him to come and get me and he just didn't. Nor the next week. I don't know if I waited for him again or not. Maybe that nugget of memory hasn't worked it's way up my throat just yet. Perhaps it won't.
What I do vividly remember is saying and meaning the words, "damn-it". And at ten, being surprised at how easily they fell off my tongue. Damn-him for forgetting. Then damn him for not calling. Then damn him for not coming and not coming and not coming.
I damned the heart-wielding bear on the "miss you" card that arrived later that year. And damned the photo of my aunt and dad sitting at the beach together (in blue jeans and boots?) that was precariously tucked inside. I damned every corner of that folded piece of paper and every guilt-laden word scratched onto it's innards.
And then I put it in a box so I could keep damning it until I had someone's face to damn it to personally. I waited for the chance for quite a lot of years.
I cursed plenty of people from age ten until twenty. Boyfriends got smacked with damn in their faces and my mother was privately damned plenty during the year I turned eighteen. Professors were damned during college and I even damned myself after damning the University and calling it quits just shy of my bachelor's degree. (That last one was a retrospective damn, of course.)
The fact is, my life went on after that day in the car port and it went on pretty fine, I'd say. I got through those father-daughter occasions like learning to drive a car and being grounded for staying out past curfew because my mom was so forgiving when I silently damned her. I still can't see how we both survived my sixteenth birthday. Ugh, and prom.
When the phone rang just after my twentieth birthday and my aunt's flowery voice told me my dad was in a hospital two hours away and wasn't expected to "make it" all I could think of was damn. Two damn hours away. I expected he had been in Kentucky or serving in the peace corps somewhere in Botswana all this time.
I damned him when I put my key in the ignition of my red Mitsubishi. I damned Sarah McLaughlin for being on the radio while I pulled out of my apartment complex parking lot. For leaving me on the folding aluminum chair and for making my mother go crazy alone with me during my teen years, I damned my father over and over. And I cried holding that steering wheel all the way to Tampa, where my usually absent sense of direction automatically guided me into the parking lot of the Veteran's Hospital and up to the ICU where the rest of his family sat around with wet blue eyes and running noses.
And after his brothers and sisters and cousins lined up to administer the pity hugs to the long abandoned daughter, and my tongue dripped an unfounded "damn" for each of them, I was escorted by the damned nurse to the side of his god-damned bed.
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