All day today I walked around smelling my dad, I was puzzled by this for hours. Thinking on the psychology of it- do I miss him? Am I smelling him because I think that I act like him? Am I acting like him? Taking a few notes out of his book on how to be the perfect asshole? Or do I simply just smell him.
When it came down to it, after some mild sleuthing and some serious sniffing I discovered that in my brain some old version of my dad smells like unwashed hair and vintage Levi’s.
And the nostalgia was intoxicating. The smell was tethered to the few good memories I do have of my daddy, and yes I say ‘daddy’ because in those memories, that’s what he was to me, a real father figure, more than a dad, he was a daddy, mine own gentle protector, shielding me in his arms against his chest, listening to his heart beating behind his ribs, feeling the soft vibrations of his mindless humming. The smell was of the daddy I wished so dearly to have forever, the daddy that I stayed up late for, beseeching my God and Savior to save this man, to bring him home so that I could hug him again. This was the father I didn’t think I could live without. And even if I could, I sure as hell didn’t want to.
My dad has been a lot of things, but my daddy has been nothing but safety. He’s the one who scared away stalkers and hollered at coaches, in defense of me. He’s the one who let me cry on his chest when the world was just too heavy, the daddy who cried in my arms when his eldest daughter got married without him. It’s the smell of a repentant man, who knows he’s done wrong, and is trying to love and be loved in spite of it.
I wasn’t taught how to process emotions or how to express my feelings, I wasn’t raised in a safe home for secure individuals. I was taught to be independent and smart, capable, impenetrable. Emotions are for the weak, so my heart is made of stone. I’ve yet to learn how to share myself with other people. I’m severely under developed in the world of emotions, and this puts me at a great disadvantage when connecting with people.
Its not that I don’t feel deeply, it’s that I do, and that when I do I have no fucking clue how to deal with this depth. Here I am assuming I’m the kiddie pool, only to discover that I am, in fact the ocean. Noticeable or not, my tide is always moving, ebbing and flowing, threatening a tsunami, but only in my head. On the outside, I appear calm, and peaceful, whilst on the inside I’m teeming with life, forever moving throughout my mind, diving into unimaginable depths. As Pipi Longstocking said, “I am the ocean and nobody owns me.”
Over the weekend I’ve discovered some emotions, and I fell prey to their overwhelming nature. A rediscovered trigger of an uncontrollable helplessness, and destruction.
I saw it over and over again, replaying in slow motion in mind, every sense on full alert jerking up past horrors to align them with the present. I sat in my borrowed car for an hour, heaving, racking sobs, my entire body shaking and convulsing with the redundant shrieking ringing in my ears. BANG. I wince, recalling the impact. Yelp. I watch the tires roll over her entire body. I close my eyes for a moment and I am under a car, pinned. No. no. no. no . no . no . no. non . no . Screaming. Shrieking. Do I cry? Am I stuck? Is she dead. Shrieking. A flash of my sister covering her face in horror, shrilly expressing her fears at my spurting, bloodied forehead. Immediately I am in crisis mode. Crying. She’s crying, I walk over to her, composed, grab her shoulder, as the dog hurries over to us. She’s still screaming. Scream crying. I imagine all the times I’ve put people in this position with my recklessness. We kneel next to the dog, petting her, cooing and telling her how brave she is, crying in between breaths. I see my friends and family looking over me, telling me I’m okay. I tell her to put the baby down, she refuses and starts to call people. I get the dog up, and slowly walk her to the truck. Suddenly, I am in Arizona, being herded up the driveway, with a limp, spewing blood from the back of my head, wondering what went wrong. I put her in the car, pet her, kiss her, and tell her everything is going to be okay. Is she going to die? I’m in the ambulance being asked about the president, but how did I get here. I take the baby, and put the mother in the car. I assure her everything is going to be okay, and I beg her not to look under the towel. I’m in the car, they tell me to hold that towel tight on my head and don’t show anyone but the doctors. I call the vet, and drive to the hospital, holding back the worry in my throat. This is my time to be strong. I always have to be the strong one. Don’t let them see me cry. We are at the hospital waiting on the x-rays, waiting on the husband, the dad. I’m on a stretcher, watching the florescent lights whiz by on the ceiling. They are telling me it’s okay, now, my parents are almost here. I start crying. They can’t come. My dad can’t see, he’ll be so mad. He’ll never let me surf again, I wail to the nurse. She chuckles and assures me. They tell us the drugs she’s on, they show us her injuries. She’s going to need to come back in for surgery, but you can take her home tonight. I’m three and I’m telling my dad to leave while they sew up my face, and as he turns to walk out I’m screaming for him to stay. And then to go. And then to stay and hold my hand. I’m scared without him, but I thought I had to be on my own.
And that night, the moment I didn’t need to be strong anymore, i wasn’t. I fell apart bit by bit until the floodgates opened and I couldn’t pull myself together because, remember? that I am the ocean and it is incredibly difficult to grip the entire ocean in your closed fist.
And so I cried, and I stormed and wave after wave crashed into me until I was fully engulfed in this washing machine of pent up emotion, brought on by a forgotten trigger.
And he was sitting next to me, helplessly caught on my my sharp reef as the tide rolled in threatening to drown him. And I couldn’t explain it then. I couldn’t stop and I couldn’t tell him why, or what or how. I could only bite my sleeve and pray that this wasn’t the tsunami that I’ve been dreading. And the only thing I felt was out of control.
I felt like a child again, wishing for my daddy. The one who embodies safety. The one who I can nap on and cook with. The daddy that I know is one and the same with the dad that has brought so much hurt, confusion and danger into my life, but who I love anyways. Who is broken, but when he tries it’s the most beautiful, hopeful sight I’ve ever laid eyes on, and it almost feels worth all the hurt.