I think my dad is dead.”
I knew this storm was coming, but for some reason that doesn’t soften the blow. Her words break me wide open, like when thunder first strikes the sky. The vibration of all of this lingers within me. I intentionally breathe in, and then out.
In some ways this conversation began two years ago, and it’s a dialogue now destined to last forever… but none of that answers what needs to be answered. The time I’ve had to “prepare” offers no relief to the pain that accompanies this moment. How do you tell your baby who her daddy really is? How do you answer her when you feel in your gut, like her not knowing, is exactly what saves her…
I look at her porcelain face; flawless, aside from the small smudge of chocolate on her left cheek. It takes an enormity of will power for me to not lick my thumb, and brush that donut stain away. (Being a mother is so strange like that…)
And thinking about that gooey mess really makes me wonder…It makes me wonder, what parts of this hard conversation that we are about to have, will actually stick? And I use this inquiry, as another invitation to find my breath.
What do you serve as a side, to soften the blow of something like this? Is there enough ice cream, popcorn, or candy? I can’t expect her to understand the rawness of it now, as a four year old… It’s asking too much. it’s as certifiable, as what he did is crazy… And I sense the truth amidst all of this; my precious baby girl already viscerally feels it in hid absence.
I study the scene, as if it is a set built for a stage; one that I don’t belong on… I notice the way her tiny body is seemingly swallowed by our brown couch, asI kneel before her. I can’t help but pause again, this time to admire the length, the softness, the simple placement of her hair around her face. It is clear that I am as captivated by it as she is annoyed; simply by the way she quickly palms it off of her forehead, and struggles to tuck it behind her ears. Her ears. His ears.
I hold each of her hands within each of mine, and at last, I allow my gaze to connect with hers. Her eyes become the ocean, not just simply in color, but in motion. I’m not sure they have ever looked so blue, and just behind them I can see the waves. The pulling, pushing, and conflicting sea. I wish I better knew its depth.
I wish I knew what her heart could hold and what her mind could swallow…
Then again who knows better than I? The woman who grew, carried, and birthed this baby into existence… I inhale a flood of memories. Memories of how I have continued to help her grow, the ways that I have held her since, and each beginning we have embarked on together; since the day she began breathing on her own.
“Your dad is not dead.” I say.
I want to preserve her freedom from all of this, but that wouldn’t be freedom at all.
The story has been written all along, in the ways that he’s been missing. I remind and/or tell myself that the words aren’t as important as what they convey, and I build my sentences to hold her. I practice offering her the love and compassion I’ve often denied to myself, with the act of simply extending my hand; and I’m hoping she chooses to hold it.
I wrote this last year at the beginning of summer, in real time; when Molly asked me if her father was dead. I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t share it then, but recently Molly has been asking about her dad more often and I’ve been struggling to find my way through the darkness…
This is a raw reminder of what I believe matters most. Age appropriate honesty, always…