At Least for a While

Now that I have shed your name, disconnected my life from yours all but completely, I surprise myself by thinking fondly of you for the first time in a long time.

You weren’t a good man, but you were my dad, at least for awhile.

In your neglect you gave me a freedom to sort things out for myself. When there was no food at home, I stole from you and bought whatever I liked. In the chaos of your new relationships, I learnt how to be flexible, to adapt to the rhythms of whoever was around. And when you left me alone at night I made my own fun, talking endlessly to no one on the telephone, refining my conversational skills for the day when someone else would take up their role on the other end of the line.

I surprise myself by thinking fondly of you for the first time in a long time

You never spoke to me as if I was a child, you expected more of me than that. You left a gigantic computer programming book on my desk and told me to work through the book of problems and let you know once I was done. I was never done, I barely got through the first chapter. I know now that you were gifted, no one had taught you anything or made things happen for you. I have only ever been average at most things, but I’ve worked hard to make things happen for me too.

You never did like my appearance, and you told me so. You wanted me to be a pretty girl and my inability to be that thing angered you. You loved women, didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to be one. And you loved fucking. Night after night you would make such a racket I had to force a pillow over my head to block out the sound. Looking back, I’ve often wondered if I didn’t feel safe being a girl around you.

I realise now that it would’ve been better for us both if I had stayed away sooner

You only hit me sometimes, really hardly ever. But when you did it scared me, because you’ve always been a strong man.

You weren’t boring. No one could accuse you of that. At 7am on the weekend you’d be up and ready to go, camping, waterskiing, whatever, and there I’d be too, pleading with you to take me with you. Sometimes you did. You always crammed as much into life as you could. I’m like that too now. Sometimes I wonder if either of us have ever really relaxed.

It was harder when I got older, when I started to notice that adults didn’t find you charming, when I stopped worshipping you. You kicked me out of the house not once but twice, and I realise now that it would’ve been better for us both if I had stayed away sooner. But it was hard for me to let go of you because you were my father and I loved you.

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