My Father: A Personal Reflection Essay

1318 words - 5 pages

My father speaks slowly; his sentences deliberate, exhaustive and eloquent. His ability to describe every step of a mechanical process—with absolute clarity and precision—astounds and inspires me. His compulsion to describe every emotional nuance—with absolute clarity and precision—used to infuriate me. I would become so impatient while arguing with him; I’d fume, and he’d plod through the plot of our conflict, back not just to the flashpoint incident, but farther yet to the underlying principles he understood, and wished I would, and which I wished to scorch. My mother, too, can explain everything, but she knows when I want that. She knows how to give yes-or-no answers to yes-or-no questions. She knows how to give clinical detail and technical terms, then define, elaborate, and translate for the layperson. She knows how to listen to understand what I think or feel, without feeling hurt that I don’t think and feel as she does. She knows when to agree (when she agrees), and when to disagree (when she disagrees); my father knows what seems morally sound, and contests, recoils from, or blocks out all other noise. My mother may sit silently reading, while the rest of the family roils around her, while my father tries to keep order with a wounded look of dismay. My mother will prattle on about gardening or coupon codes or recipes she hopes I’ll try, or books I’ll later love, while I’m trying to sit quietly and read. I wish I didn’t snap at her. Impressive value and power belongs to those who have feet in both writing and some esoteric field, such as astronomy, computer programming, medicine, ecology. My father fixes things. His carpentry comes home with him: little-Japanese-truckloads of surplus lumber from hospitals and schools he built. The scraps stack up around him, filling the old farmhouse, and go into the regular small repairs and revisions that make a Home. His collection is his art, his way of understanding how the pieces fit. My mother writes too neatly; the minuscule curlicues of her script belie her profession. No one expects to read their own prescription, let alone the doctor’s name. But my mother signs her patients, legibly, not out of pride, but with care. My father delivers magnificent toasts, speeches and eulogies. He cries proudly at podiums. From the pulpit, he addresses his mother’s mourners. His voice rings clear as crystal tapped, until it breaks on a sharp word such as “together.” In the pews, we ache in concert, as together’s point punctures, the o moans, the tooth of the g catches, twists and tears so the minute serrations of the dental fricative can open us up wide enough to let the hurt spill out. Together, as in “when we were together last,” not “pull yourself together,” because sometimes it’s okay to fall apart together. I cannot. My mother keeps her grieving subdued, stretches it out over the years of her mother’s dying, the long pilgrimages to her bedside, where she sits and speaks to her, to the bedspread, the oxygen...

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