My dad called me today.
I wish I could just have that sentence be my entire post for today. But as is the case with my dad, it's not that simple. It never has been. It never will be.
This was the first time since I've moved away from home that my dad has called me. I've learned not to expect him to call. He never calls me on any special day. Not my birthday. Not my wedding. Not when Charlie was born. Not anytime at all. I always have to call him. But he hardly ever answers the phone, which means that we almost never talk.
I don't mind being the one to have to make the call. I really don't. If I were younger and more angsty, I might wonder why I'm putting in all the effort to keep in touch. But I know that anything outside of my dad's normal routine is often too much for him. He needs predictability and stability. Or at least this is how I imagine it is for him.
So the fact that he called me this morning was, in a word, huge.
We talked for a record minute and a half. He asked about Charlie. He was so proud that I had had a boy. He asked about how much he weighed and seemed delighted that Charlie's a chunker. It made me feel good to know that my dad actually felt something about his grandson and about me. Often, my dad comes across as unfeeling and indifferent. It's easy to begin to believe that he doesn't care.
I believe that my dad does care, at least as much as he can care. Over the years, just when I have needed him to show me the most, he has come through for me. In his own limited way, yes, but still. He has come through.
In 8th grade, I tried out for the basketball team and didn't make it. I was crushed and humiliated, especially because my two best friends made the team. I came home and sobbed dramatically in true 13-year-old fashion. My dad called, and my mom told him what happened. She passed the phone over to me, and he and I talked for a bit. Right before we hung up, he told me he loved me.
It was the first time he'd ever said it to me.
And at that moment, I realized that basketball could suck it because my dad had just told me he loved me.
I want to say it was a turning point in our relationship and that my dad slowly began to come out of his damaged shell, all because of the love he had for his only daughter. But I learned the hard way, after years and years of wishing for him to be whole, that life is not a Lifetime movie. He would never have that huge breakthrough. We would never sit together and cry over our separation. He would never be the daddy I needed him to be.
I'm 30 years old now. And I don't really need a daddy anymore. But still, I hang onto his moments of purity and lucidity like they're gold. There have only been a handful. But they are real. And they are mine.
And his phone call today was one of them.
(our most recent family photo, circa 2000, looking almost normal)