Shock And Numbness (no awe)

I finally was going to see my father again. I called him to let him know that I was going to be inducted into the National Honors Society that spring and that if he’d like to, the ceremony would be on a Saturday afternoon.

During the conversation I said something quietly about the three months that had elapsed since I’d last seen him, and he tersely responded that the phone worked both ways.

“But I’m the child in this situation. You’re the parent. Aren’t you supposed to want to pick up the phone and call me?”

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

My mother, on the other hand, ebulliently took me on a shopping trip for a proper, grown up outfit for the ceremony. She informed me that both she and my father had been members when they were in high school. She showed me where on the tattered bookshelves she’d lifted from her last job before she’d been laid off she kept her high school yearbooks, and sure enough, there she was. In all of the photos outside of Pitman High School, circa 1958, there was my mother in her proper 1950s dress, bobby socks and shoes, in the group photos for many of the same activities I was currently enrolled in.

I loved thinking about my mother before life had happened to her. She was starting to smile more these days, having started Weight Watchers and being more comfortable in her own skin. She was making friends and rising quickly at her new job, and overall, seeming a lot more satisfied with her lot in life.

My father snapped a photo of her and I together on the way to the ceremony. The early spring wind was blowing my hair. My face shows the apprehension I felt seeing my father again after the extended period of time. My mother’s shows pride.

She must have said something in a whisper to him during the ceremony as the students all sat segregated away from their families on the other side of the darkened auditorium. I was too wrapped up in my bitter anger against my father to feel anything but bewildered shock. But by the end of the ceremony, he was trying very hard to put a smile on my face and help me enjoy the moment.

As my mother rushed outside to smoke the cigarette she’d been dying to have since five minutes after the ceremony started, my father hugged my shoulders tight and told me that he was sorry it had been so long since I’d seen him, and that he would try to make an effort to call me more often.

I smiled at him, still holding my certificate and feeling the weight of the NHS pin on my shoulder padded jacket, trying to look like that made me feel better. But it didn’t. It didn’t make anything go away at all.


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