As I write this, you sit quietly across from me in the rocking chair at Mom’s. You specifically sit there because it is “supposedly” animal free (however I have seen the cats sit there when you aren’t around. Sorry to ruin your animal free fantasy). For whatever reason you are incredibly anti-pets and we all laugh because it has become a long running joke. It’s funny because the animals all love you, drawn to the secret kind energy you carry around like one of your heavy camera bags.
Your quietness can be confused with being stand offish. In middle school my friends were slightly scared of you because you rarely spoke. All of a sudden on our way to the mall, your deep southern drawl would rise out of the front of the car and my friends would gape. He speaks! I’ve always thought of your quietness as reflective. You take in the world around you and when something is important, you say it.
I appreciate your silences.
So many memories of long car rides with no set destination where we speak every so often and then the conversation slows to a lull until one of us comments on the sky or strikes up a debate about life on other planets. Even though sometimes we aren’t saying anything, I feel full being with you. I am always certain of you even when there are no words.
When I was a teenager oh how we would fight. Yelling screaming slamming doors. You hated cursing so I would pull them all out in hopes of shocking you. Instead you would laugh and that would make me ever angrier. Sometimes you would grab me into a bear hug and hold me to you. I would fight you at first and then slump into the hug and cry and tell you I was sorry. And you would tell me it’s ok.
But there was also so much good. When I was hospitalized in Oklahoma for my anorexia you would fax me a letter every night. I would wait for one of the nurses to bring it to me each night and cry that you were a 1000 miles away. When you came to visit me, we walked around the mall and you bought me new clothes because many of my old ones were too small from gaining much needed weight. You convinced me to eat some ice cream and now whenever we see a marble slab, we both get sweet cream. It tastes like the ice cream your father would make on the back porch, each grandchild getting a chance at sitting on the ice cream maker while someone else turned the crank.
I think all kids one day see their parents in a new light when you realize they are humans too with hurts, dreams, wishes of the future. One day when I was 23, we sat in your Jeep outside our favorite coffee shop and talked for 2 hours about relationships, broken hearts, how the past recycles itself. Something shifted and in the past 8 years we have had only one fight. It was a silly fight about my driving through a snow storm to visit my dog at a vet. Needless to say you won after many words were exchanged and I turned my car around furious with him for guilting me into staying home.
Family means to the world to you and I love that you have passed that on to me and Chapman. I especially love that you have welcomed my husband with open arms into our family. I remember calling you after our third date to tell you I had met the man I was going to marry and you saying “well I can’t wait to meet him”. You have gone out of your way to make Sean feel like he “is one of us” and that means more to me than you can possibly imagine. Your parents did the same for my mother and it makes my heart sing to see the tradition carrying forward generation after generation.
I appreciate your kindness. I appreciate the fact that you can answer any science question I have without even pausing. I appreciate how you go out of your way to help anyone who needs it. I appreciate your dry sense humor and I appreciate that you get mine. I appreciate how much you have done to allow me to have the life I lead. I appreciate your ability to keep going when things are hard. I appreciate you always believing in me when I sometimes really don’t believe in myself.
I love you Atticus.