Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Father, The Artichoke

I have a very interesting relationship with my father.  You see, growing up I was not what you would refer to as close to my father; he a functioning alcoholic; me, an overly sensitive girl... We just didn't get along well, not much in common, not much to talk about... It took me years to mend the broken dreams of a healthy father figure, but now as an adult through trial after trial of what works for both he and I,we have come into a new relationship, father and daughter, friend and friend. The main ingredient in the toxic cocktail that once was my relationship with dad was just that... the alcohol.  Dad was a intelligent, level headed, loving, generous, give you the last dollar in his pocket type of man in a sober moment.  I had the opportunity to confront my father last summer, with my sister by my side. An intervention if you will.  My voice, my terms and conditions, my couch... My opportunity to let him know what I thought of him and his lifestyle, what I loved and what I hated, my worst fears and my greatest hopes... He left that day with a commitment made to my sister and I for change;change was asked of him, and change, he did.  When Sebastian began attending preschool in September of 2007, dad and I decided that we would commit Thursday mornings to one another.  We would meet for coffee and conversation; I could see him on a weekly basis, if for no other reason then to monitor his physical health and well being.  I wont lie, the first few weeks were a little awkward. I can say for a sure fact that I had not spent this much, one on one time with my father, um let me think... ever.  I felt a nervousness in both of us, looking across the table at one another wanting to say so much, but just not knowing how.  Let me tell you now that there was never "that" conversation between us, the apology, the acceptance and all that would have  followed.  Instead mostly conversations about my father and his life.  An average week consists of dad bringing a picture, a book, or some sort of nostalgia, to anchor the story that he wants to share with me for the week. One week, his baby book, one week a headband of mine I hadn't seen in about twenty years... I was probably ten the last time it was worn... At times I feel like I'm listening to a friend reminisce of the years that have passed.  I feel like this most when he speaks of his mother, his sister, grandmother and grandfather; doing so with with such love and longing that sometimes he cries, sometimes he weeps. In these moments I feel closest to him. I feel like these meetings have a purpose in his life as well as mine.  Therapeutic, cleansing, a necessary release of emotion dating back before I was a twinkle in his eye. He is a great story teller. I love listening to him speak. His authenticity,  his precise accuracy for detail, his rich vocabulary, painting the picture of his words in my mind. I won't lie, I love the stories in which I play one of the characters. I love listening to his version of a story that I have likely been told by others. I love knowing that he remembers me as a child, and that he was present in moments that I didn't think that he was.  My heart breaks when I think of his loss, his family a distant memory. I laugh at his comedic pretrial of his day to day existence,growing old, becoming the elderly man he never thought he would be...  Before I knew it the school year was over and we had seen each other more in those eight months than we had in years.  We had discovered each other as adults, as human being, as friends, and as members of the same family.  I have a wealth of stories and information that I otherwise might never have owned.  I have a man in my life that is complicated and complex, intelligent and witty, loving and compassionate, lonely and scared. This man is my father, my friend, my Thursday morning guy.  I love my dad. I mean it when I say it, I love my dad. So here is the grand analogy. I was lying awake the other night, listening to the crickets chirping outside our bedroom window, and in the silence that followed them to sleep, this came to me.  Artichokes...  they are the most inconspicuous, lay low type of wonderful food.  Their outward appearance is deceiving;they are not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination. They are an awkward shape and even have little thorns that can prick you and hurt you if you are not careful.  They take a long time to cook... slowly steaming themselves until they are ready, softened to the touch.  They consist of multiple layers... oh the layers, leaf after leaf, with a bit of their yummy fruit upon them... it's not much, but it's enough to keep you going, keep you working through the not so great, looking and anticipating something much better.  And then, all of a sudden, there it is,the heart.  Your personal reward for all of the time, the patience, the overlooking of the not so great, the perseverance and finally, you are rewarded with the heart...  This is my father, the artichoke,he was most definitely worth the wait.  I would do it all again, to be where I am today with my reward in hand, his heart, finally mine.

 The sobriety is coming, he is honest in that. A work in progress, good days and bad days, sober... and then not. I realize that this is his eternal struggle, his internal conflict. I am a part of his recovery, his cheer leader, his hug and his ally each Thursday morning, and any day in between...

No comments: