I love my father.
Over the past three years, as I’ve been writing my memoir, I’ve mentioned my father a great deal. My memoir is intended to be a father-daughter story after all. It’s too early to tell, as I look over the draft, if I’ve captured that or not. In fact I look at the draft and have a hard time seeing it for what it is: a book. All I see is my life looking back at me, but for the first time in the form of words and pictures and arrows. It’s still missing some of the best parts. It’s cut short, not yet complete. It’s so hard for me to tell if my father is there, if the reader can see him standing under the shade of a cedar tree, whispering prayers into the wind, looking over at his daughter with his bright blue eyes, sheepishly feeling into his pocket for his rusty sneak-a-toke. On Mother’s Day, I usually try to get in touch with my dad. He’s likely to be out in the woods but eventually he’ll hear my message wishing him a Happy Mother’s Day, dad.
It was just me and my dad living up on the river in that little red cabin. Around town, people always called me “Robby’s daughter”, as if that was enough. And it was. I didn’t need to be Terah. With my hair and skin tones mimicking my father’s, “Robby’s daughter” just worked.
People often told me how lucky I was. Lucky to be Robby’s daughter. My cousin Cevin, who was a year older than me, told me this once and I really listened because Cevin wasn’t the sensitive type. That day, I felt like he really wanted me to know just how good I had it. I felt like he wanted me to never forget that, that I had a good father. And, I haven’t Cevin, I haven’t forgotten it.
Cevin’s dad was locked up in a California state penitentiary. He got out at one point and I remember him running to meet Cevin at the front door, hoisting him into his big, prison-built arms and then, with Cevin in tow, climbing up to the top branches of a fir tree. He had just gotten out but I think he was already back on the drugs. Even my Dad didn’t climb to the top of a tree with a kid in his arms. Cevin’s dad was gone within a week and I remembered again what he had said about my dad and I felt for him. My dad would always just be Cevin’s uncle, never his dad. Nobody could ever be his dad but his dad. There were step-dad’s but they were all cuckoo.
My dad made mistakes. You’ll read all about ’em in the memoir. Some of those mistakes were downright chilling, I’m not gonna lie. But I’d like to take a moment to focus on all the good my father did for me, his only child:
1. Kept me after my mother left. He didn’t pawn me off on an aunt or try to track down my mom and give me back.
2. Found a good job to support us.
3. Joined a church in a desperate attempt to free us from the drug culture that surrounded our home.
4. Built us the little red cabin.
5. Took me baw-hawin’, hiking, beach-combing, and gold panning.
6. Never complained about his parents who both drank wayyyy too much and were highly neglectful to him and his siblings.
7. Never really complained about anyone.
8. Never hit me.
9. Answered questions I asked him as a child honestly.
10. Has always accepted me and allowed me to be myself, no matter how pathetic my self became.
I look forward to sharing more stories about my father, Robby, a dad whom I always call to wish a Happy Mother’s Day.
My father recently filled out a lengthy interview I sent him in the mail. I asked him to do this so that it might assist me in my memoir writing. I asked him all sorts of questions about what he remembers from his childhood, and what he remembers from mine. I asked him to talk about his marriages and his memory of a significant life-death experience he had at age 9. He filled it out and provided me many insights. He also stumbled upon an old journal of his that spans from his adolescent years to the year 2000–the year my father and I went our separate ways. He gave it to me. I was amazed when I read it, amazed that a 22 year-old boy (my dad nonetheless) would journal about the birth of his child, and falling in love. I’m hoping these words and memories he has recorded and provided me with will help me to better share with you the very essence of my father. My father is different.