I found a lot of ways to not let this bother me over the years. Playing checkers by myself, throwing a baseball in the air and catching it--one man catch is SO lonely, and then, ultimately through books and writing. I eventually reached a point where I loved to curl up under a blanket with a book, or sit down before an unoccupied, un-fought-for computer and create my own world where mothers and sisters never left anyone behind.
But sometimes, it was different.
Sometimes, my dad would come trotting down the stairs in what he calls his "ball cap," or would lean in the doorway, and say to me, "I have to go out. Are you okay alone?" I always felt like what he was REALLY saying was, "Will you come with me?" It may or may not have been the case, but I believed what I believed, so I'd turn off the computer or put my book down spine-up and say, "Actually, can I come?" And he'd tip his head to one side, smile a little, and say, "You want to?"
I never really knew what to say to him in the car. All together, my family adds up to yelling, wittiness, relentless teasing, and more yelling, and no one's ever really spared from anyone else's sparky jibes. But when we were all together, it was my brother on one side of my dad and my sister on the other, and me next to my mom: always. Pauly always seemed to know exactly what my dad was interested in, and Jane seemed, well, to just know everything. On my own, I was acutely aware of the possibility that I was just different enough from my siblings to not have anything else valuable to say.
My father would turn on the radio, oldies mostly, ones that I knew every word to and most people had probably never heard before. How many kids know every Four Seasons song, every Beach Boys song, everything by Connie Francis, and which girl bands Phil Specter represented, all before the age of ten? We'd break the silence by singing along together. During commercials or the switching of the tapes (no CDs or iPods back then), Dad would talk to me.
"That song was always playing at the diner I'd go to in high school," he might say. "It was right down the road, but I always drove." He'd wink and add, "Too hip to walk."
Or he'd point out something really cool, like the way the light was hitting the trees over the horizon. "Look at that," he'd say. "It looks like gold, doesn't it?" And always with this small smile that let you know he really did appreciate what he was thinking of, and he knew that I would, too.
My dad can start singing a song based on the last word of any sentence. He can come up with a perfect song that suits the theme in any given moment. He's a really cool dancer. When I was little and had "Father-Daughter Dances," my dad could lift me up and twirl me. Dancing With the Stars? What-EV. My dad could rock their socks off. He can walk faster than ANYBODY, in dress shoes, carrying a heavy briefcase. He drives pretty fast, too. When he taught me to drive he said, "Come on now, Mar, be in control. Put your fingers on the wheel, never your palms. Your palms make the car move with your emotions. Your fingers will keep you in control." He knows every car, every make, every year, and can give you either a special memory or a list of relevant facts about them without looking it up. He can plant anything and make it grow. He has the world's biggest vocabulary ("You better make up with Mom soon, because this situation is becoming gangrenous.") He can scare the hell out of you when you're totally guilty, or make you feel like a million bucks with the only kind of compliment he gives: a genuine one.
When my mom and sister went shopping, when my older brother made me crazy or made me cry, when my day has been the worst and so completely bad that I walk around with eyes that are so filled with held-back tears I look like a pipe about to burst, there is one person who will always, always see the best in me, or the best in that moment. And he'll say it (or sing it) in just the right way to make me--impossibly--smile. I know I'm the youngest, and I know I'm called "Daddy's Girl," but I also know I can count on my Dad. Always.
Happy Father's Day.
Grandpa and Grandson, the magic goes on. <3