February 09, 2022
It was warm enough to walk yesterday. Warm enough to walk without a hat, if you're me (I have a hood, don't panic). Well above zero and inching toward freezing. No wind to speak of. In other words, a drop dead gorgeous winter day in Northern Vermont.
I stuck my head in C's sitting room and let her know I was going. She asked where and how far and I said, just up the road to the intersection. She pointed west and I said, no, East but it doesn't matter because it's a half mile either way. I'll be back in a bit. I would have told S but she wasn't about.
I don't believe I said a word when I headed for the meadow to break through all that snow, but maybe I did and nobody thought much of it other than, that must have been fun. Later I thought, if anything's deadly it's that meadow, not that wide dirt road. Perception is everything.
I'm not sure what he's afraid of. C's afraid too and she can tell you if I didn't live here she wouldn't think about it at all. Same with S. Nobody would worry about S if she wasn't right in front of us. For the record, it's never occurred to me to worry about S. She's the most physically fit and truly sensible sixty-five year old I've ever met. She's been out there on snow shoes for I don't know how long and I'm just thinking about dinner and maybe I should start something so she doesn't have to. But I'm not eighty-two or ninety-two and she's not my child.
I think about my children and the often rational but possibly just as irrational fear I used to experience when they lived with me. I am helpless. Something might happen and it's my job to keep them alive, DAMMIT!
I know what time I left and I know when I got home and the road was bumpy and snowy and a little bit icy and that was just fine. My boots are good and my balance the same.
However, when I walked through the garage door and checked the time I chastised myself because I shouldn't have been walking that particular mile in twenty-two minutes. It should have taken thirty even if I didn't stop to talk to Dwayne and his dogs. He wasn't there so there wasn't that excuse for barreling up and down that road like it was the bone dry heat of August.
I stepped into the mud and boot and ice foyer and there he was, at the top of the three step rise having clearly lost his shit. He had his coat and gloves and hat on and was heading for his boots to come and drag my body off the road because it should NOT have taken more than fifteen minutes to walk any sort of mile.
And I'm twelve again, or eight, or twenty-one and it doesn't matter. This man is terrified and I've just been triggered. The soundtrack in my head goes something like this:
I feel trapped, cornered, and caged. What the fuck?
Oh my God, that man is so scared.
Stop yelling at me, Daddy! This is stupid.
Oh my God, that man is so scared.
I need to get away from this. Now.
Later, I went upstairs, kissed the top of his head and listened to him tell me how playing the level four or even five puzzles was easy just a year ago and now he was lucky he could make it through a three. I listen to him tell me two or three times a week because that's the monster running circles in his head just now. Of course he can't play the fours and fives, there's not enough oxygen in his brain to work those things out.
He's so scared.
Later, we drove into town to drop my car at the station (something's broke) and pick up pizza. I'm behind him on the way down the mountain and into town and I can see he's having trouble. Later he tells me there's something wrong with the lights. He can see with the high beams no trouble but without, he's afraid of the road. This is NOT my dad.
I offer to drive home if it makes him feel better but he says, no, I'm OK, and you know, mostly he is. It's getting close to that time when he should not drive at night.
We pull into the garage and he does just fine. This incredibly competent man is still competent but he's on the edge and he knows it. In the light of the garage, on the way to the same door I'd walked through just seven hours prior I look at his face and watch his body. He does not look or move like an old man.
He looks and moves like a very frightened, and under that layer, a terribly, horribly sad man.
And I can't do jack shit about this except kiss the top of his head and tell him he's OK.
But I'm not.
But you are.
But I'm not. I could do better a year ago.
I know. I love you, Daddy. You'll be OK.
I can't break those shackles; I don't know that he can. But I'll tell you this, a great deal of unconditional love and compassion drops his shoulders, raises his head, and holds the space that lets the smile out.
If there's a smile more beautiful, I've yet to see it.