I just returned from a few days out in the country with my father. He is one of my best friends in the whole world and his small house feels like a temple to me. It is home. We talk about it all, we walk through the yard and garden, we hold hands. We're real good, he and i. Getting to this place with him didn't come easily though. My early life with him was pretty turbulent and i saw some things. I was never afraid of what he would do to me but was scared of what he would do to others and for good reason. Like i said, i saw some things.
I watched him with my girls this visit and saw the things he would attempt to teach them. I wondered what they would remember as well as how much of what i say will stick with them. It makes me want to speak and act carefully because i don't get to choose which moments we share that they will always remember. But here is one from my childhood with my father that has become a part of me. For all of the crashing and banging that i remember, there are some soft ones like this.
When my brothers and I were little, we went through brief phases of being afraid of the dark as most children do. Best as I can remember when this came to pass for me, my father happened to be around at that moment which wasn't always so. My parents divorced with a final bang when i was 3 and dad would just pop back in from time to time. He took me for a walk outside and asked me if I knew what the scariest thing in the dark was. I have no idea what my reply was and can only imagine that it was a monster of sorts. Maybe it was Marsha Marshmallow, a character from a cereal box that I had bad dreams about. Maybe it was these weird yellow finger puppet toys we had. Or maybe it was being alone. I don’t know. I also don’t know if I remember what he said then or if I have told and heard the story so many times that I just think I do.
Nevertheless, it follows that he shot down my answer and told me that HE, in fact, was the scariest thing in the dark. I think I looked at him with a look of uncertainty and then he gave me the serious dad look that could always dispel my doubt and disbelief and told me again that he really was the scariest thing in the dark. He asked me if I was scared of him and when I said no he told me that I didn’t have anything else to worry about. If the worst wasn’t going to get me, then the lesser wouldn’t either. And s0omehow it did the trick.
I can't remember if it began to work right away and my faith in his words was that strong or if I fought through it silently in my own time, finding a way to be brave and not doubt what dad had said. I think it was probably both; believing him and also feeling that it was disobedient and even sacrilegious not to. Either way, I don’t remember being afraid of the dark and all that could be found within many other times in my childhood. I graduated to new concerns and points of relevance, the way that anyone who is growing does. I probably found new things to think and dream about and tiptoe around and my dad may have helped me through those from time to time in some similar noteworthy way, but this is one I happen to remember. This is one that stuck with me.