“Casual match in a very dry field. What could be the season’s yield?” ~Suzanne Vega
The rain is coming down. First fast. Then furious. Then so blindingly swift it ceases to be rain, but instead becomes a curtain of water shielding me from the outside world. I don’t reach out to touch it because I don’t like being wet. I don’t like the knowledge that comes with feeling wet more often than not. And even though I know when it’s coming nothing ever makes it any better.
There is this Enya album called A Day Without Rain, and it brings me back to Ireland every single time I play it, back to the lush verdant green fields, and the endless days of rain keeping them that way. I guess it’s a tradeoff then, when I think about it, how the brilliant green doesn’t come without the steady downpour. But that day without rain, it’s precious. It gives us a chance to actually enjoy the brilliant green for what it is, not for how it’s obscured in the downpour.
I called my dad this week. That in and of itself doesn’t really qualify as news, except that it’s the first time I’ve spoken with him since his stroke, which was two months ago. We fell back into those patterns, not unlike riding a bike. We pedal one foot at a time, the rotation moving us forward in incremental steps, but we never truly go forward. We just go around in circles because that is our dynamic. It has always been our dynamic. I don’t know if I expected it to be different since his own life-altering experience.
Strike that. I did expect it to be different and I was absolutely devastated when it was the same. Something about arriving back in the same place we’ve been so often before made my soul ache, made my spirit break into a million disparate pieces. If hope truly is the thing with feathers, then the conversation grounded me in a way that few things ever have in my life. It was like I was waiting, looking up at the sky, hoping it would stay dry, but like clockwork the clouds came and unleashed the rain.
I’m not naive enough to think that some of it isn’t my fault, but I’m also not stupid enough to think that some of it isn’t his. It takes two, my friend told me recently, and my silence claimed me as more than just a victim, but as complicit in the death of our relationship. Or at the least, for the reason our relationship is on life support. There’s no pretending, and yet that’s what we both do when we talk, what we did this week when I called him up and he told me he had been planning to call me.
He had not been planning to call me. Either call or don’t call, but don’t lie to me because I called you and you feel you have to tell me something that excuses why you haven’t called me. I wanted to scream, but I didn’t because that’s not what we do. It’s not socially acceptable, and if there’s anything he taught me it’s to be socially acceptable, to pretend in public so that people don’t guess at the depths of my true emotions. I was a good disciple, and I apparently still am.
But I did tell him about the brilliant green in my life, about my wonderful family who do for me what he never could — who make me feel loved and appreciated for who I can’t help being, not just an obligation he feels he has to fulfill every now and again. I did tell him about my teaching job and how exciting it is to go to work on those days. Calling him was a chance to see how he was doing, but it was more so a chance for me to remind him that I am living my life, that time does go on, that I’m no longer the little boy he left, that I’m a man who is taking care of his own family in a way that he never did.
“Just let the red rain splash you. Let the rain fall on your skin. I come to you, defenses down, with the trust of a child.”
It would be easy for me to be bitter, to cut him off completely, but I’m not like that. In fact, I think the reason it took me so long to call him was because I was waiting for him to call me, not that I was ignoring him. I couldn’t ignore him if I wanted to, even though he’s virtually nonexistent in my life, because I think of him often. I wonder what it would be like if he was in my life, if we had the kind of relationship that I have with my mom, but the curtain of rain always drops down in front of my vision, obscuring him once again. Because he lives in the downpour. I don’t know if he can see the verdant green in my life, or in the lives of all of his other children, because of all the rain.
So I’m hopeful for a dry season, for him to realize one day that this isn’t doing any of us any favors, that pretending we’re fine is a dead end we keep arriving at time and again. But it takes me too. It takes me getting wet, dipping my toes in, remembering the times we have had together, because even though they have been few, they still exist. We still exist, and we have the chance to be father and son again. It’s what we do with it that matters, whether or not we let it change us.
And I’m hopeful for a dry season, because I’m tired of the rain.