my dad called tonight looking for my sister whose flight was due to arrive around 11am this morning. of course he knew i’d know where she was and i did: she was in her hotel dreading the 30 minute drive across the river to his house. before we ended the call he asked, are those wedding bells i hear? i thought, what is this man talking about? i said, that must be a ringing in your ears. you’d better get that checked out. that tickled him and we shared a chuckle before saying our “i love yous” and hanging up. to hear those bells would give him great joy. to walk me down the aisle and hand me off to the man whose job it will be to care for me, is my dad’s greatest desire for my life. if my dad knew my apprehension he would be concerned. worried, even.
a few weeks ago we talked briefly about his wife (not my mother) and petty grievances they have (petty to me, but my issues with her stretch beyond the horizon). as he talked i listened, an eye on hulu, munching on chicken samosas. he realizes he’s venting to me and catches himself, says that he hopes i don’t have a dismal view of marriage. ha. dismal isn’t quite the word. reticence, hesitation, fear, are more to the point; i don’t say that, i just listen to his complaints and think, if i were in a man in my late 60s and divorced i’d probably remarry too. they’ve been together for 10 years and i suppose it’s happy enough, whatever that means.
i remember summer days racing across the lawn, on my way to nowhere important, while my dad cut the grass in long, neat, lines. i had things to do but invariably he would shut off the lawn mower and stop me, how about bringing dad a cool glass of water? now i, a petulant and irascible pre-teen, could not be bothered to go back inside and would roll my eyes at the request. he would unhook the grass-catcher from the side of the orange mower, the ones you had to pull the cord to start and say, “and i’ll dance at your wedding.” my eyes near caught in the back of my head, but obedience won out and i dutifully returned with ice water, every time.
it’s been more than 30 years and that scene and many like it play in my head, and i grow wistful, thinking, will he? it was an insignificant remark then but it holds great meaning now. my dad is 77 and recovering from hip surgery. i am ambivalent about marriage. prospects are a mirage. yet i wonder (worry) if he will make good on his promise. somewhere inside me hope is dancing.