I love you, my beautiful, talented, brilliant shining star.
...says the small, rectangular paper hanging by a magnet on my desk. i cut it out from the bottom of a card my mom sent me a few years ago.
Dani – I love and miss you. Dad
...always on post-it notes, usually with the words underlined, stuck to whatever piece of mail he has sent. i wonder what dad will do when i eventually have my own home and don't have any mail going to his house.
my parents have been sending me love notes since i was 21, the year i moved to miami. i have two pictures of the very moment before i drove off in the white chrysler convertible i bought from mom that year: one is my brother and i with our beagle cujo, in front of the dogwood tree. the way kev is standing, slightly slouched, and the lopsided half-smile on his face...it captures the essence of him. he's so unique. so cool. i mean really cool...not hip, not trying. he just is. the other picture is dad and i, the rims of our eyes wet and pink, but still trying to smile. it was the first time of many that dad would cry when i left. sometimes he apologizes for it...i'm sorry, honey. i just hate seeing you leave. in recent years i've learned that sometimes i have to be the strong one, so i fix my eyes on something in the background and measure my breaths when he hugs me goodbye. and when i reach the sharp turn in the gravel road, i let the faucet run from my eyes. it turns off on its own...all the time now, actually...as if something inside me knows better. just drive, d. look at what's in front of you, and go.
mom and i had a long talk yesterday. she doesn't call often, maybe once a week. some days i don't feel like talking, so i don't answer. and every time, i watch the screen on my phone and count to three or so, waiting for the ring and "Dad Cell" to appear. then dad says mom had just called...as if i didn't know...and "we were just trying to get a hold of you." a few times i've tried to explain that they should at least give me a few hours or even a day to call back, to which one of them always replies "you don't know what it's like to be a parent." so i answer most of the time, because i don't know what it's like to be a parent. and because i remind myself that some people's parents are always in their business, telling them what to do...mine are not. and some people's parents are not in their business at all. it shocks me, still, even though it's commonplace, to see parents being apathetic toward the very beings they're supposed to protect and care for, forever, not just when they're small. i can't know what it's like to be a parent until or if i am one, but i can know, without even a breath of hesitation, that my life would no longer be about me. and i know that bc i have parents who live it, to this day, even though both of their children are grown. so when i get frustrated at two phone calls in a row, i catch myself in the midst of being ungrateful and remind myself that all they ask of me is an occasional phone call, and a few visits a year. i've yet to be consistent on the latter. 11+ hours is the same as 1,000, it seems. i told mom last night that one of the few reasons i'd ever care to be wealthy is so i could hire a driver and come home any time i please.
the love notes, they are one of few habits or traditions in my family. mom, dad, kev, and i, we always did our own thing, separately. dad had his routines. the fixtures of my childhood were his things—his keys, always on his desk; gym bag by the front door; cologne on the right-hand corner of his dresser; shirt and tie hanging on the door of the closet outside my bedroom; socks and tshirts and underwear with a "g" in black marker, so i wouldn't mix them up with my brother's when i was folding. mom was a loner, a woman of few words, unless she was singing along with the radio she kept in the kitchen. what a voice. i wish i had inherited it. she would go about her day nearly unnoticed, like the doe that occasionally appears from the clearing below the house they live in now. my brother, he spent most of my childhood in the attic, for hours upon hours, playing neil peart drum solos. or he would be fishing, probably at the west fork river. his burnt orange tackle box—the kind that doubles as a chair—is still around. i see it, along with the box full of his old cassette tapes, on the shelf in the basement when i go home, and if i stop for a second or two i can picture his bedroom when he was a teenager. i loved to go in when he wasn't home, just to look at his things—the band posters on the wall; the hunting license cover that he put a picture of john bonham in; his tshirt drawer filled with zildjian, buddy rich, and the army tshirt i stole, so old and threadbare that now it's nearly see-through; the knife with a compass built into the end.
my parents say all the time how they wish i lived closer. i doubt i ever will. mom says i shouldn't feel bad about it, though, because she knows there's no life there for me, that sometimes kids have to move away and that's just how it is. it's funny how now she's reassuring me, because in years past, i would be the one saying mom, people's kids move away all the time. it's normal. because back then, i interpreted their concern for control...and the surest way to push me away is to tell me what to do. while the distance is harder than i ever imagined it would be, on me and my parents, it's okay. mom and i have agreed that it's better this way because we would butt heads if i were always around. it's ironic how things turn out...how most of west virginia, all of kentucky, and the entire length of tennessee between us has made us closer than ever, and how this blog is my way of writing love notes to my family.