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It was a summer about two years ago. I had spent a wonderful Saturday basking in hilarity with my dad. Now we were in our twin home drifting onto separate carpeted floors and into our disconnected worlds. He floated to the TV to watch Cops. I ran upstairs to my own starry themed bedroom—blue walls with a border, yellow stars that he cut out of metal and painted just for me. I glanced at the clock on my computer- 9:00pm. Boredom began to sink its teeth into me.
There was already a harmonic snore generating momentum in the guestroom next door. Nani. It means mother's mother. She was staying for a few months. It was the usual affair; she traveled back and forth between Canada—where my uncle, her son, lives and here. She would agree someone was a failure—especially if it was my dad. Anything negative he did, said, or even what she inferred he was thinking was grounds for a bashing party.
Now as I slouched down the steps peering around the corner to the living room dad was nowhere to be found. Confused, I walked through the kitchen and towards the basement door. I opened it. His voice immediately struck my ears. “Hey Bob. Yeah sure… You coming now?” Then I heard him shuffle through his cabinet above his desk. The stairs creaked when his foot clunked on the wood surface. I darted around the corner into the dining room to hide as he came up. As he scuffed the pale tile floor with his slippers my mind was scattered with multiple suspicions.
As a kid I held my dad on a pedestal. Mom was always the bad guy, the responsible, the reliable, the orderly, the money managing work woman. Dad was always the outgoing, free-spirited, stubborn innovator. She yelled, and he was passive aggressive. She cried and, he left the scene. I guess he made it up to me by spending time watching movies, listening to music and talking. However as years past my perception revealed to me he wasn’t so great after all, but even though I started understanding and admitting to myself he had downfalls I didn’t let go of the good qualities—His kindness, his versatility, his experiences in life, his confidence, his nurturing spirit. He was kind to anyone, and would stop to talk to a stranger. He accomplished a lot going to college on basketball scholarship going semi-pro, and later starting his own remodeling business. Confidence was built in, but the nurturing he had inherited from his father, my grandfather, who died way ahead of my birth. It ended up stopping his career in professional basketball, but he met my mom.
Once he got in front of the screen door I slid along the wall to the end of the narrow kitchen. I glanced around the corner to see him in his normal stance. With his hands on his hips and his head turning left to right he looked for any sign of our neighbor Bob approaching. To be honest I was curious because Bob was a family man, but my intuition said he was shady. Finally almost fifteen minutes later he came roaring up our driveway. When he got out, and I heard his car door slam; it was my cue to get a bit closer.
My dad was also prone to associating with lowlife people. Judy, Mike and a few bar buddies I encountered briefly over the course of a year or two. They weren’t worth his time, but he always came back to them. The core reason for this I believe was he couldn’t drop someone who accepted him, who didn’t argue and praised him because he gave them attention. They needed him. They wanted him. He never failed to fall into a bear trap.
They greeted each other on the lawn. My eyes focused on the distance between them—hardly normal. “Heeey Bob”, dad uttered nonchalantly. “Hey Ed. How’re you?” There was subtle eagerness in Bob’s scratchy voice. “Not too bad man” Almost simultaneously they reached into their pockets.
Nani was also an extremely passive person mostly an instigator of sorts. I came to her to vent about my dad. We could go for hours picking apart his behavior and calling him names. It felt good, but I didn’t want to talk about my dad like that. I hated being suspicious. The distrust was like a tumor.
The handoff didn’t appear real. Quickly in exchange for a few bills was a rolled up plastic baggy. My eyes glazed over tingling with a layer of moistness. I couldn’t react anymore than that. He was coming back towards the house. “Catch you later Bob.” “Appreciate this man.” was the last comment Bob made while climbing into his truck. I traveled up the stairs on my hands and knees at a steady speed. I crawled around the corner to sit against the wall on the carpet as dad yanked the door open. I was in the dark with my right hand touching my mouth. Rocking back and forth I started breathing heavy trying to hold it together not knowing what to do. A few tears collected around my bottom lids. My eyebrows frowned as I stared into the carpet. No answers found. I grabbed the cordless phone from the kitchen and ran to the top of the stairs. On the way dad asked “What’s up?” “Nothing” I remarked in a flat tone. Closing my eyes for a moment I suffocated the phone in my left hand. I began slamming it into ground. My teeth were clenching. There were reflections: Who was that man I saw—not my dad. No it couldn’t be—a stranger who resembled him perhaps. Control yourself. Dial mom.
Mom told me earlier she was working late. Her cell would be on, but she couldn’t answer until after I left a message.
I started stabbing numbers I thought were hers. I couldn’t remember in the heat of all the urgency. My heart was hammering my chest to pieces. It hurt to inhale, and it hurt to exhale. Eventually the numbers rearranged themselves. Once I got to the last digit I hit end.
If I told Mom private internal issues or beef I had with dad she’d go to the source. It was her nature to wear her heart on her sleeve, but getting her involved wasn’t always smart. She never understood I wanted everything to be kept between A and B. C should never know.
I dialed it again, but hit end. I couldn’t tell her right now. My composure was gathered enough to realize Nani was lying down in her room behind the closed door ahead of me. I glimpsed at my clock—10:00pm. I’m better off revealing this to her before anyone else in the world. She was good for two things—talking trash and keeping secrets.
“Hello?” Nani said jerking her head up. Her tan wrinkled eyelids sagged down halfway. I never failed to notice the bothersome mole invading her nose’s privacy. It didn’t look healthy, but she was stubborn—hated doctors. I stepped forward to sit next to her on the bed covered in knitting almost forgetting to close the door behind me. I was an active volcano at the pinnacle of eruption whether explosions of tears or finally letting a good scream take up the volume of the room. I have to explain. “Hey Nani…” I said to myself, “Nevermind”. I was hesitant to open up. What territory was I illegally crossing over? I wasn’t completely sure with what could happen after I tell the story. The more I sat there the more I hated seeing the drugs—the crack delivery to a neighbor… more like bum. My dad is a f***ing bum too. I sought the opportunity to glance back at how my dad was just a bit earlier compared to a few years ago. I sat back against the wobbly headboard rubbing my eyes when I felt some moisture gathering while Nani dozed off.
The pedestal was silver, padded and polished; he sat upon it daily for a good thirteen fourteen years of my life. I cheered him on blindly. Mom was the one booing on the sidelines when he slipped up. By slipping up I mean staying out for three days straight with the Lowlifes, paying in cash for everything but the bills, never calling, never able to pick me up from school or activities and never failing to fight with mom. This is how blind I was or just plain ole in denial. I knew mom was right; he just seemed to be the more entertaining less angry one—the fun parent. Years changed how I perceived him.
I snapped out of the thought process. I didn’t want to wake Nani for this. Why couldn’t I handle it? It’s pretty predictable actually, my dad being a drug dealer. What a bum. I shot a look at her clock – 10:30pm. As I exhaled Mom came in the front door looking beaten down. I didn’t want to wake up Mom either.