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Leaving Dad This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I used to think my parents were like machines
And programmed themselves with series of if/then statements
If the child sneaks out at night, then deliver lecture #458
If her friends are bad for her, then it’s lecture #342B

And they had concrete problems, not like mine
which required crying over always
Because I am not a machine.
My life would never be perfect.
If the child is afraid, comfort her.

Then one day I learned that Dad picked up all the pennies he saw
and threw them onto playgrounds so the little kids could find them
and he knew that made them very happy
that’s why he did it.
Dad is like that sometimes.
And he and Mom sometimes stared at children running around in malls
If the children are happy, then you will be, also

And Dad watched me like that, too
We’d be at a track meet and I would be high jumping
and when he was truly afraid I would miss that last attempt at 4'-10",
he stopped videotaping and watched
As if I were his life and responsibility
If the child misses, tell her how to clear it
And then I thought about how Dad would feel if I missed
He would tell me that I tried very hard, even though, he noticed, I didn’t lift up my knee
enough
Never, “I wanted to see you at State another year.” Or “I wish you would have made it.”
Dad rarely spoke of himself when it was really important.
Unless of course it was to tell a story I would benefit from
If the child looks back, then smile.

But in the eyes of my parents, I can see them.
And how everything I do affects them, just a little …
Their computer responses are forced and hard
but beneath I decided lays something more.

Themselves.

And when I leave I will leave Dad behind.
He will help me unpack to go away to college and
probably talk with the other parents.
Because that’s what Dad does.
And who am I to know how he really feels?
After all these years, he was always my dad.
Talking to me. Watching my fascinating life
If the child must go away, then leave her to go.

It all seems so simple now.
They will let me go because that is their parent-computer response.
And I will say good-bye to them
But I am older now and wiser
And want more than anything
for them to realize how much more
I know there is.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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