LIVING WITH MY PAST: WRITING AN IMAGINARY FATHER’S DAY LETTER TO MYSELF IN THE FUTURE FROM MY DAUGHTER, LOLA, AGE 35
You were either oxygen or Saturn and, like you, I have developed a taste for the jarring juxtaposition of opaque metaphors. “Make them wonder,” you used to tell me back when I was 9, writing incomplete story after story in green and yellow notebooks, motivated by a blurry mess of loving language and loving the way you loved me when I dared to imagine. “If you get bored, don’t finish and just start a new one,” you instructed, “All the wildest culture and coolest philosophy is unearthed in fragments, pieces, ambiguity. Leave a trail of incomplete pieces. It’s a way of showing respect for your reader. Make them wonder.” I stared at you like poets get drunk on the moon, wondering what you meant, trying to be bigger. “How do you spell tomorrow,” I asked.
Your black guitar.
Oxygen because you were so often there, in my face, and Saturn because you so often weren’t. There were times, Dad, when I felt utterly submerged in your attention, an extension of your presence, with no doubts, unquestionably there and granted like grass and clouds and the illusion of safety. And other times, sitting in your lap with my arms draped around your neck, it was as if you were no less than 746 million miles away, gone, lost in some thought or desire or world in which I didn’t exist. It wasn’t easy being your daughter, but I don’t hold that against you. It’s not easy being anything.
The broken coffee pot.
You were a piece of trash in the wind, a mad scientist, a ghost—you had no time for toast, a blue ribbon, a bomb, and you exploded with the belief that everything was a metaphor for everything. “Two unlike things,” you’d say, pacing, arms flailing, crazy-eyed, “with nothing at all in common but then you think and wonder and bang your head against them until a bridge spans the space between, informs them, and makes meaning. Everything is everything and bridges—bridges are metaphors for metaphors.” You were a fire. You got out of hand.
Reading books aloud. Stopping to wonder.
I want to wish you a happy Father’s Day, Dad, and I want to wish you a terrible Father’s Day, Dad, and the only way I can contain and express the way I feel about you is to imagine that I am two—maybe more—people and we, all my mes, have these simultaneous and conflicting perspectives of you. And maybe, when all these angles collide, you are a Picasso or a Braque, a beautiful calamity of cubes and a mad riot of color or, maybe, all these conflicting perspectives of you embrace and, like something whispered in Sanskrit, they cancel each other out and you are a library. A dead end road. Zero, infinity, or both.
The pink hat from Kate. Was it worth what we paid?
I don’t know. But, because I am your daughter and because bridges span the spaces, no matter how the pieces of me cohere or don’t or what they signify, I want, on Father’s Day, to love all of you. The empty bottles. The home you broke. The way your enthusiasm and attention created me line by line like a little poem that revealed the worlding of a world with the girling of a girl. All of you. All of us. Because you’re my dad, yes, and it’s Father’s Day, too, but also for me, your daughter, a metaphor for you, weeping blue flowers, big yellow stars that howl in the dark like coyotes, juggling clowns, everything.
I love you,