My father: partially responsible for my existence, wholly responsible for that one time I was interrogated by NCIS (not kidding). That pretty much sums up our relationship.

Boldly, Tanya || Dear Old Dad

Everything about my dad is large. Unless he is outside, he is ducking; always too tall for whichever confining place he happens to be standing. As soon as he is seated, he stretches out his long legs, his size fourteen boots nearly reaching the opposite wall. Seventy-six inches of arms fold at the elbows to rest his extra large hand behind his head. One might suppose that he was so afraid of running out of space he needed to take up as much of it as possible, but that implies he has fears, which seems unlikely. Instead, it is like he bullies the rooms, daring them to stretch out and contain all of him. The people who share the space suddenly seem smaller in the shadow of his magnitude.


But it isn’t just his physical size. It’s his intensity. Tiny hairs along the back of your neck or your arms stand on end when you are next to him, charged by his electricity, anticipating what will happen next. If you are lucky he will begin to speak.


His baritone voice rivals rolling thunder, starting in his chest and bursting out of his mustachioed mouth. His laughter is the fierce crack of lightning that follows. You can count the seconds between the two to judge his mood. If the laughter was fast and frequent, you knew you were in for a show. If it wasn’t, there was a chance you would still get nice rainfall to wash away your worries. Still there were times when it didn’t come at all. When the joviality was gone and replaced with an edge sharp enough to severe your thoughts and convince you to run away as fast as you could and seek shelter from the havoc about to erupt. You would do well to heed that warning.


Always, it beckoned me from the depths of childhood preoccupation, and placed me in his thrall. I waited around for a crumb of attention while he regaled us with stories. They weren’t intended to be stories. My dad was just rehashing something: his day, an event, a conversation. It’s just that my dad knows how to tell a tale. Mundane details don’t stand a chance. They slowly ride his dulcet voice past his cigarette-laden lips and magically transform into riveting narrative. To this day, I call just to hear him talk about anything. It has a soothing effect, even if it is complete nonsense, and a lot of what Dad says is nonsense.


If charisma is one side of his coin, pensiveness is the other. He has mastered the art of deep thought. He could equal Rodin’s The Thinker, except Dad needs space to ruminate. He can’t figure things out when he is all hunched over and balled up like that. His big thoughts need big space to move about and grow into bigger ideas. Ideas that grow wings and take him to out of reach places so he can get lost for a while.


But no matter how lost he gets, he can never escape his demons. They are bigger than him and perpetually lurking. On the best of days, they mutually regard each other from a distance until a passing nod between them signals a momentary reprieve from endless torment. On the worst of days, they take out everyone who finds themselves within the wake of their destruction.


I have been there a time or two, and only for minor detonations. Distance proved to be a valiant protector. Others haven’t been as lucky.


My father is turbulent, a constantly churning sea with picturesque white caps and breathtaking ocean views. You can’t help but dip your toes in or wade deeper to float in the tide. Some are daring enough to surf the waves or dive the depths. But you must remain vigilant, or the dangerous undercurrent could sweep you up and carry you away.


The question is: is it worth it?


For me, the answer is yes.


When I was a kid and he visited, I would beg him to spin me. “Like a plane,” I would say. On the best of days, he actually did. He would take my tiny hands in his and start spinning in circles while I ran around gaining speed and momentum until together we had enough to lift me into the air. I swear he could get my feet higher than his head as I orbited faster and faster and screamed with glee. There were times when my hands would slip out of his, but I never flew far. His gravity kept me close. It didn’t matter that I hit a few trees or scraped a few rocks. I loved it. The anticipation, the long waits between visits, the times I got hurt, the times he said no, none of that was enough to keep me from going back for more. Every single time, the thrill of holding his hands and flying through the air wins.