Like a six-year-old with a scab, I keep picking at the memory of the man whom, even as an adult, I called “daddy.”
If you read my March 21 entry, no doubt I left you with the impression that my father was a cruel, violent man. But that side of his personality (and yes, it did exist) was only a small part of who he was.
I wrote of violent scenes. The two sides of this man were hard to fathom when I was little; they’re even harder to fathom now. Nonetheless my memories often take me to scenes that were fun, warm, loving.
An example of Mr Hyde:
How furious he must have been that hot summer day! Did he have any idea how scared my brother and I were as he stepped on the gas and took the corner in front of their house on two wheels? I felt my brother’s body as it slammed against mine. The hard, blunt door handle dug into my back as I in turn slammed against the Chev’s back door. Tires shrieked, and so did we. “Goddammit!” he shouted. I saw his fingers on the steering wheel, gripped so tightly that they looked as if they could break it in two. Was he really that strong?
But later that evening, in our old, square kitchen with its bumpy linoleum, he surprised my brother and me with child-sized boxing gloves. “The real thing,” my dad said with pride. I used to brag at school that my dad was a Golden Gloves boxer. He had been teaching me to box for a few weeks now, and I was excited as he laced up my red leather gloves. Their girth tripled the size of my eight-year-old hands and their weight made me feel impossibly awkward. But I was not going to complain. This was the big time! Left hook, right cross, I was a power house! No way was Joanne’s older brother going to bully me with his threats of squirting lemon juice in my eyes!
“Come on,” my dad said, “you can do this. Hit me with your best shot! Show me what you’ve learned!” So I did. I gathered up my courage. I pulled my right arm back. I let it shoot out. My dad hit the floor laughing, rubbing his jaw, a look of pain combined with pride on his face. “That’s my girl!”
I went to bed very happy that night.