This is a re-post of something I wrote in 2005. I’ve reworked it slightly because it was originally part of a meme someone tagged me with containing a series of questions about my life. I think this was in response to the question: What was your life like 5 years ago?
I post it again now. My dad is on my mind.
Five years ago …..
Oh, no. Must I remember?
Having undergone some past fertility treatments, we began a brand new series, certain that these, finally, would work. They did not. Each month felt like a death that kept on dying. Hope and crushing, hope and crushing. I don’t even know the person I was then. I felt utterly lost to myself. My family never spoke of it to me; to them, it was too shameful to mention, so they simply didn’t. And the heavy, lingering sorrow that had stolen my hopes seemed to have taken my voice with it. I could not bring it up. I could not give voice to the shame, breathe out what was being carefully ignored. It’s inexplicable and probably unhealthy, this dynamic, but it’s there. MB and I were bereft and crazy and hopeless.
In the midst of these failed treatments, my sister got pregnant. She had two boys and had always longed for a girl. So had I, secretly.
And … a girl it was.
I remember the day my sister called to tell me she was having a girl. I heard her voice on the answering machine and somehow knew exactly why she was calling, exactly what she was going to say, and I could not bring myself to pick up the phone. I stood inches from it, my hand dutifully out, but paused in midair. From where I was, far from her, I could see her joy; I could see it. The very air swirled pink and perfect with the news of a girl. And I, with my selfish sorrow and small heart, sunk to the floor and cried and cried, the ugly cry that no one but God ever sees you cry.
Around this time, my longtime bachelor brother finally got engaged. There were echoing choruses of “Hallelujah!” all around at this news. Even I could manage that one. My family fairly exploded with the sheer elation of it all. A new baby girl, a wedding in the works. It was like a year of Christmas where every gift is perfect; a year of parties with everyone you like and no one you don’t.
But MB and I still went, quietly, to our treatments. And still, quietly, they failed. I was breaking in two from the overwhelming weight of joy and sorrow.
One day that year, my dad called to invite me to lunch. We met at Marie Callendar’s because he likes Marie Callendar’s and when he’s at Marie Callendar’s, he likes to order soup, which he did.
As we chitchatted about this and that, I was growing more and more nervous. He was working up to say something, I could tell, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what it would be. He’s not the demonstrative type. Emotions are private, you see.
He cleared his throat several times, in that compulsive way he has. I knew then he was nervous, too. Finally, he looked at me with those dark blue-grey eyes and said:
“I know your brother’s and sister’s happiness must be breaking your heart.”
I couldn’t breathe. I had ordered soup, too, in silent solidarity, and I saw my tears dropping onto its surface. Then with a choked voice I’d never quite heard before, he whispered:
“I’m so sorry, honey.”
And I was gone. Tears streamed onto the table; heads around us turned. I was quiet, but I was just gone. My father, who had never, ever spoken to me about it, understood.
And he had said all he could. He mentioned it once and then never again. Still, in that singular moment, I felt no longer invisible; I was seen. I felt warm and alive and understood by someone I was sure did not, could not, understand.
I know they were just two sentences spoken softly over bowls of steaming soup, but they were among the best things my dad has ever said to me.
I was less broken for hearing them.