A Sunday story, grossly unedited and written quickly, but one that felt like it had to come out and it had to be shared right now, as Father's Day comes to an end.
I’LL BE RIGHT THERE
I knocked softly on the bathroom door.
“Dad,” I called gently, opening the door just enough for him to hear my voice over the drum on the shower.
“Yeah honey. I’ll be out in a minute. Can it wait?”
“Not really,” I called back, unsure and scared and needing.
“Okay babe. Come in.”
And so I pushed the door the rest of the way and walked into the steamy bathroom where my dad was trying to wash away the heat and dirt and fatigue from a day spent working in the middle of a road.
But he had children who needed him and sometimes they needed him when he was tired and sore and just trying to take a shower. And so he was there. He was wherever he needed to be. It had always been so. And that’s how I had known it would be okay to knock.
I sat down on the closed toilet seat, the drawing in my hand. My dad pulled back the curtain then, peeked out and smiled at me, but then he didn’t.
“Honey, what’s up?” he asked me.
I turned the drawing to face him. It was a simple pencil sketch of a road and the parts of a cat scattered all across it. It was my cat, the one who had been hit by a car the week before. The one my dad had come into my bedroom to tell me he had found, hours after we’d realized that she was missing. The one for whom tears had fallen all over my father as he’d held me and told me that he was so sorry, that he would do anything to bring that kitty back to me.
“Someone drew this today,” I told him. “And then passed it to me in class.”
My dad’s eyes closed. His head dropped.
“Babe go into your room okay and I’ll be right there. I’ll be right there.”
I folded the drawing in my small hands and walked toward the door as the shower turned off and I felt the weight of what I thought was my dad’s burden heavy on my heart. I felt how he couldn’t even take a shower without someone needing him.
Moments later though, dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, my dad was there beside me as my feet hung over the edge of my bed and the drawing turned around and around in my hands. Gently he took it from me.
“Who did this?” he asked me, and I told him.
And then I pleaded with him. I pleaded with him to help me understand because my heart was broken and I knew he would have answers because he always did, because I’d interrupted showers before and sleep too, and dinner and a beer and his thoughts. I’d interrupted it all so many times and he always said the same thing he’d said just then.
He always said, “I’ll be right there.”
And he always was.
He took a long sigh then and weight lifted from my heart because I remembered in that moment that I was not a burden to him. I remembered then that this was what he did. He showed up when we needed him and that’s how I had known that it would be okay to knock.
And then he told me what I had gone there to hear and what I have remembered countless times over the years, and what I have forgotten countless times over the years too, but what has always stayed tucked away inside of me somewhere so that I can get to it from time to time and treasure it.
“This girl is hurting, honey,” he told me. “She is hurting. That’s all I can say. That’s why she did this to you. And I am so sorry.”
This girl is hurting. That’s why she did this to you. And I am so sorry.
I can’t always access that. I can’t. But it is always somewhere inside. Just like he is. He is somewhere inside. Always.
And then one of my sisters was at the door or maybe it was my brother. I can’t recall for sure, but someone was at the door then and my dad turned and spoke.
He said, “I’ll be right there.”