[featured: Pika with her dad]
The days are turning, its now parka in the morning, and short sleeves by afternoon. So out and about soaking up those blessed Autumnal rays, of raking leaves in friends backyard as she harvests her herbs, with the sun the only thing in the blue sky, and birds chatter in the trees as their branches sway in the breeze, and I am high.
You know? On life, on here, on now. This.
Pika dances and prances and nibbles at my ankles, I bend down, way, way down, to put on her leash, and away we go down to explore The Coves.
My girlfriend, the one with the leaves and the yard, her dad now is 96, I think she said, and she and her sister care for him like he is this fine ancestral piece of treasure. Fight over who needs to have him for dinner, which one is visiting him at his nursing home, are you taking him to Port? Fish and chips and watch the sunset over that Lake Erie shore. As he’s had plenty of health issues this year, and with the COVID ragging through the long-term care homes like it has, this year has been a rocky road of fears, and plenty of worry, hence the bickering and snickering at one another, as sisters do.
Now dad, he does not require such adminastrations, and we do not treat him as one would a fine ancestral heirloom – maybe MsB does.
At around the same age as the U.S. president, he requires no special tenderness, as yet. Well, but feeding and watering and kisses on his freckled cheek; god, the woman does love him so.
Now, growing up, mom taught us to give our father the benefit of the doubt. And doubt I had aplenty. Of if he loved me, could he love anything as much as he loved her? I could tell, we could tell, everyone could tell. He was not mean, or violent or any of that.
No, dad was just rather quiet, even gloomy, and gross as he’d snort his nose in the morning when I was a teenager, and I’d huff on out of my room, and we’d have a battle of wills in the hall between the bathroom and my bedroom, and mom would have to come out and referee… BACK TO YOUR ROOM… she would yell from her bedroom door, in her full length flannel nighty with the frill that dragged on the floor.
She would explain how he didn’t grow up the same as us, being sent to live on his grandma’s tobacco farm from 9 years old, due to him being high-strung and too much for his mentally fragile mom to handle.
Not that his grandma was mean to him, she adored him. Not that his mom or dad were anything but loving, if unable to handle him as a child. Or that he was mistreated, but that the whole standard mom, dad and the kids in the safety of a warm family unit we had, well, it just was not in the cards for him. His parents were dirt poor, grandpa was a projectionist down at the local movie house, and a child with that much spunk was best suited, they thought, to a field to wear him out.
And, I don’t know if it helped, or hindered, but it was what it was.
So my father grew up on his grandparents farm in the blistering North Carolina sun harvesting tobacco, quit school early in his teens, and worked every day of his life after that till he retired. And that’s that.
I mean it, he is not a complex man in those classic gift store card ways, god help me picking one out every Father’s Day.
Nope, never the doting father figure from old-fashioned warm Norman Rockwell scenes. Dad was distant, quiet, and southern; with a beard, freckles from the sun, and blue eyes that cried for days after mom died.
He was never going to win father of the year, but so it goes.
Anywho, all that aside, try as I might to understand him, I struggle to really grasp how on earth my father could spend 40-some years in Canada and not see that charlatan down yonder for what he is.
Understand, you know, dad can add complex numbers in his head, math for him is a breeze, he grew up in news obsessed family, and still always has a radio on, in the car, at home… he is intelligent and knowledgeable. He is kind, he is humble, somewhat reserved, he is well-spoken, honest, and… and yes, dad voted for Trump… and last time I spoke to my sister she said he still plans to again this November.
Though, not sure why, guess just because Canadian politics is boring and dry and full of checks and balances to power, and dignity and diplomacy still factors in to our expectations of our government and the leaders we vote for, why would he vote for Trump? Not sure, but some Americans (and a few Canadians, to be fair) just seem to gravitate to wingnuts in record number, so I guess I thought his Canadian experience would have knocked some of that out of him.
I was wrong.
Once mom died and wife number 2 had wrestled the last dime from his line of credit, after he’d reunited with MsB, an old love from back in those North Carolina summer nights, he moved back down there to be with her, and so it goes. Drank the Kool-Aid and got hoodwinked by Fox.
But, him being back home was good. He was there, he was getting to know his older brother again, and reconnecting to that past, those places, re-rooting himself I suppose in that land where he was born, and raised.
Now all the tobacco barns are almost all gone, and country roads now lined with suburban sprawl, with 2 car garages and pristine lawns, nary a tobacco field, and tis rare to see cotton lining the road, it is a place removed from its past.
Though, the past still haunts many hearts and minds, and in those mythologies that he came to think of as realities, lie the lies of centuries. As if in defiance of that battle that they lost, they fly that rebel flag.
Dad even complained once how he was mad he couldn’t say “cotton pickin'” as he’d picked as much cotton as any black kid of his day… to him it didn’t register as a slur, just an old timey saying he felt a kinship too.
Ya know, like that rebel flag he identified as southern, not racist, and of course that is how I came to know the history of that place where I too had been born, seen through his southern eyes and heart.
But how could I know? Canada is different. We don’t have the same magnitude of issues, right in your face, like it is down there. Racial divides still I could see, driving by on country roads at rickety shacks that lined the roads, filled with black faces, back in the 70s.
Growing up in Canada, on our visits down there I saw mere remnants of the Jim Crow south, of strange signs reading WHITEs ONLY, and believing them just antiquated in memorial to another time, a place long ago and far away. I didn’t know.
To me it was all so far away, I was leagues distant to the lunch-counter sit-ins, and the violent reaction to integration of black kids in schools, the racist discriminatory laws that defined his entire youth and early adulthood were an alien country, far far away, long ago.
But they weren’t. I guess in many ways, my sister and I both saw racism different from our Canadian cousins, because we saw more first hand, and the subject came up, was a thing we witnessed, and not just from books.
My dad and I have rarely seen eye to eye. Our relationship has always been one of silence, uncomfortable. I the bleeding heart compelled to defend the vulnerable, the bullied, the weak, the unique. Dad, well, he just turns the other cheek, follows along, never one to challenge the status quo.
He still refuses to see himself as racist in any way.
Even though I disagree with his inaccurate assessment of the facts, of his politics, his shifty values, I am wise enough to know I won’t be changing the mind of a mid70s old man who spends his days drinkin’ the Fox kool-aid; I will not be bashing my head against that wall.
So, last week (feels years ago) we learned via an exposé in The New York Times that Trump is an even bigger fraud than we thought, or, er… what many thought. Myself included.
Though, I knew I disliked him, I did believe the hype that he was a billionaire, but between the NYT and Forbes, we now know that is not true.
So I said:
Chances are fairly good I won’t ask dad, as I don’t speak to him of U.S. politics.
Why not you may ask?
There are many reasons, some based on fear. I choke up when I talk to dad about this stuff, I forget everything that I know, and I shut down. So there’s that.
My mind goes blank, I have this part of me that just can’t talk to him about how I feel, what I know, and what the truth is. It stuns me, as any other time, on any other subject, I would storm in with an evangelical passion and expound whatever wisdom I had to bestow upon all thee who would listen.
Seriously, dad even once told me I sounded like some old timey southern baptist preacher.
Which, I might add, I do come by honestly. Traced a few of my ancestors down south who were, in fact, preachers, deacons, and all number of churchy folk down through the many generations of ancestors from North Carolina/Virginia environs, back to 1670s.
I do choke up though when talking to dad, of him, that man, his president. It boils my blood and, frankly, the other thing is I am truly afraid of saying something truly nasty to him, and that being the last thing, and something happening, and you know?
Because, I know. I know. How it feels to have the last words be mean, and not getting the chance to take them back.
And would it change anything? Would it change his mind? If after everything that bully and chief has done, said, all of it, after the last 4 years if he can still vote for him, would anything I say change his mind? And should I try?
That is the question, as November 3rd looms on the near horizon, closer and closer every day.
After it all… what could I possibly say to change his mind?
So, my silence speaks volumes more than mere words ever could.
Because he KNOWs me. If anyone knows, that man is my father, and he KNOWs what my silence means, if anyone would know. He knows that I once refused to speak for days, and I can’t recall what over, but my anger, my righteous passionate self was in me from birth, tis my nature.
Well, and grandma always did say, if you can not say anything nice one should say nothing at all.
Or, maybe I just don’t know what to say?
I mean, where would I start? Expressing emotions is not my forté, which I guess I come by honestly.
Mind just reels on the various vicious things his president has done. I mean, incompetent liar who listens to dictators over his own intelligence service, his own experts he throws aside for quacks that parrot whatever lies he creates. Science is for losers, soldiers are suckers, and the virus is a Chinese flu the democrats are trying to blame on dear leader who is godlike and can do NO wrong.
Well, till he does, and then they’re all… flip flop and… um… fly.
So, busy week in the U.S. with Trumps debate disaster, Pences fly, Melanie f*king Christmas tapes from her bff, and what did my wondering eyes see before me?
And, then typhoid Donny catches the COVID, and all bets are off, and the polls rise for Biden, day after day, as the virus makes its way through that once great house of white. And they lie, and change their tune, but this time a lullaby for their perfect guy, the warrior battling the virus, they say.
Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers.
And, doomscrolling twitter at all godly hours of the day, unable to look away, read a book, watch a show, for long. And every single day, heck, every hour the circus and its clown, it dominates the news, and the right-wing spews their delusional drivel, and I wonder, I wonder how on earth my father could participate in this mass slaughter, of decency denied, of anger and rage, and lies upon lies, and more and more and more people die.
So that god king takes his expensive cocktail, in his VIP room, with blistering doom the media descends on Walter Reed, following Marine 1 as it careens up from the White House grounds. They follow his joyride past his paid to stand there fans, locked in a hermetically sealed vehicle with 3 Secret Service who are paid to protect his life, looking straight ahead and pretend he is not endangering theirs.
After his hospital stunts, and his balcony scene, and I still am gobsmacked at who my father has become, to follow this madman, this conman, this liar.
No, my father is no precious heirloom, that man. But, I do love him, he is my dad, and one day this will all be over, behind us, and we can talk of other things, again, without this elephant in the room.
Until that day, I give him that benefit of the doubt mom asked of me, I do, usually. I see that somehow these folks just don’t seem to fit the world as it is, and wish to go back in time, and they believe trump is just that guy. He seduces them with lie after lie.
You know, dad once told me this story of when he was growing up they told stories of fireballs, and the devil at a crossroads. He said one of my ancestors, while out in a carriage at night they came upon just such a thing, at a crossroads, the ball of firey light. These stories haunt the southerner, a piece of their homelands, of the Celts and Germanic these stories come down.
Dad even had one of his own, of waking one night to the devil at the foot of his bed. Terrifying, though he did not right away heed its warning, and he always said that it was mom that saved him, that his collision course with destiny and the devil, well, she saved his soul.
This is no longer about politics, and I see that for some, my dad included, they don’t see what the United States has become, and the precipice they balance on, with this authoritarian and his sycophants in charge.
And I always thought, one is loyal to a country, not a president, no?
So, no, I don’t understand how this man could be so seduced by this conman, and watch as thousands upon thousands die, needlessly. Believing the punditry on Fox News, and falling for the cheap tricks this reality TV star pulls, his affair with porn stars, and his love of dictators.
I don’t understand how he can watch as the man cheats and lies, rips infants and children from their mother’s arms, and knowingly completely ignore the guidance of seasoned experts in virology and spread a virus through those who are loyal to him, and that he just doesn’t seem to care.
But I do. Care. Deeply.
And, god help me, I will do whatever small things I can to turn that tide, down yonder in the land of my birth.