Friday, December 24, 2004

History doesn't repeat itself

My dad is like stone. Thursday morning, after the swelling in his foot came down enough for him to focus on anything else, I told him about the babies.

“Dad…it’s still early, but…it looks like Jasmine and I are going to have twins.”

Absolutely ZERO response. He sat there, on one end of the sofa while his leg extended the length of it. Jasmine and I were sitting on the bench seat from his van. My old man redefines frugal. If you looked it up in the dictionary the fifth definition would simply read “Robert.” The bench seat and two bucket seats from his ’86 model minivan, the same one I spent hour upon hour in while on vacation, are removable and double as the “recliners” and a “love seat” in the living area of his trailer home.

Yeah, a trailer home. It was on the land when he bought it. He didn’t care. He just wanted to be as close as possible to John Henry when he bought it. Wednesday night when I pulled up into the driveway I sat there with the engine running in my 2002 model vehicle and I looked at the place, run down, weeds, dirt and rust. The trailer isn’t worth more than $5k. How many people can say they live in a home worth no more than $5k? I sat there, in his driveway, and looked at the place and realized…it’s no better than where I grew up. My old man hasn’t changed. I have.

He pushed me into college and gave me the lecture of my life when I told him I planned to join the Air Force. But sometimes I feel like he resents it. I feel it every time he climbs into my pick up, every time he comes to my house (which is modest in my opinion, but perhaps part of the problem) and especially when I’m at his house and he’s making excuses for the coffee pot that won’t heat up or the toilet that requires you to jiggle the handle after you flush or the bathroom door that has no knob, only a hole you have to put your finger through to slide the latch into place.

We grew up in a little two bedroom house up on blocks with several acres of livestock. Julie and I shared a room, we had no choice. The floor in the living room rotted through and the carpet was the only thing keeping folks from touching the ground. It stretched downward and caused us to tell folks we weren’t allowed to have friends over because my mom was afraid they’d twist their ankles. Prefacing the problem with “Watch your step, the floor is rotten” was not an option. Instead, nobody was invited over. It was easier that way.

My old man worked 75 hours a week. I shit you not. Forty hours at the paper mill and 35 at the place he’s still employed through. Growing up, I never thought I’d be good enough. I could never be humble enough to pacify him. The slightest arrogance would set him off and I’d get the ass whipping I deserved.

I have two kids on the way. All the shit I’ve heard says spankings are what lead to serial killers. But I’m not a serial killer. I took a few in the ribs, ass and face and I turned out okay. I think.

Should I hit my children? It’s nobody’s goddamn business what happened between me and my old man but ours. But am I a better man for it? He never scarred me physically. I recall a time I laid on the floor of my bedroom closet while he kicked me over and over in the ribs and I cried, 12 years old, and wondered why Mom was letting it happen. But I lived.

She’s fucking pregnant. Jasmine is pregnant. She’s having TWO kids and they’re both mine. I’m a daddy.

I don’t want to kick my kids. I don’t want to hit them at all. Maybe things will change when they are 6 or 7 years old, but for now I hope to prevent history from repeating itself. My dad’s a good man, he is, I swear it. Things changed after Mom died. He changed. The first time he told me he loved me I was 29. I just stared at him. It took me 6 months to say it back.

This morning when I handed Jasmine a wet washcloth for her face after she threw up I thought about all of this, all at once, and decided. I can be a good dad.