Watching my father come home from work
carrying his official looking leather briefcase
and wearing the usual corduroy blazer with
elbow patches up the driveway to the front door,
silent and torn, like someone working for the
government who can’t tell their family what
they do for most of the hours of their days,
I couldn’t wait to make him feel welcome and familiar.
Comparing him to a beaten pet, which, in truth,
is what I really was, and maybe we both were,
I think I wanted to hug happiness into him
the way you want to make a skittish new dog
understand they’ve finally come home, and no
longer need to tighten towards a sudden hand or
a rope, every time their body wants more than food
to run over to you and chomp an enthusiastic hello.
Of course, it goes without saying that this is also
what I really wanted for myself, since we both knew
we shared the same wound. And why wouldn’t we?
Weren’t we both assaulted by the same woman?
I remember this one time just as he was coming home,
she’d apparently had enough of our helping
one another feel loved, she locked the doors and
windows and prevented us from seeing each other,
which is about as literal an example of forced neglect
as you can get.
I remember her racing around to lock everything
and him sitting on the red picnic table with that
fancy briefcase of his looking like he’d just witnessed
the death of his whole family and couldn’t understand
why he was still here, a look that said I can’t come back
even though I want to.
Reader, it didn’t matter that I’d gotten outside just before
my mother could stop me and, from the back fence, ran
and dove into the deep end of my father. It didn’t matter
that we were safe. Neither of us were coming up from
this. Not really.
But that’s also how I know the real work of my life
isn’t poetry, or even my work with kids with special needs,
but in learning how to find love where it can’t be found
and then coming back to say I did.