My Father: A Timeline
I struggled to understand my father. Here’s what I do know about him.
There are some things you should understand about this man, the man who fathered me:
He looks like almost every other baby ever born: red-faced, hairless, eyes closed. His cries pierce the quiet country desolation and scatter among the last brittle oak leaves of winter. Spring is coming.
Middle child syndrome. Somewhere among the cows and the chickens, the last of the hogs and two stray dogs. Not as pious as the eldest, a daughter, nor as charming as the youngest, another son. Poor eyesight and a buzz cut. Nothing special, really.
Pulls a knife on the kid at school who had taunted him for his thick horn-rimmed glasses. Two weeks later, drops out of high school, having almost completed 10th grade.
Marries my mother. Soon, she is pregnant but miscarries. That (boy, girl?) would have been my older sibling, the one to lead the way through childhood. Sometimes I envy that early departure.
On the longest day of the year, I am born. Like many babies, I am colicky and sensitive to over-stimulation. Like many men of that time and place, he prefers a smoky bar to our cramped trailer.
Four days after my birthday, my mother has another child, a son. He will grow to have a head of luxurious curls and a problem with prescription drugs. The baby syndrome: never accountable, never held accountable. Kind-hearted and loving, but there’s little room for a man with those qualities in our home or our town. He follows the path laid before him, and I will come to wonder whether he can give up the pills or if he’ll just give up.
Running through my granny’s field, which is where my father spent his childhood, our mother and my brother and I slip down into the creek, which is where I spent a great deal of my childhood. We must not cry. She peeks up, and when my father’s truck passes, we clamber out and continue toward Granny’s house, where we will be…