The young boy jumped out of the tree he was climbing. He walked past the small crowd of people who were huddled under the awning. They were trying to stay dry from the rain as they smoked their cigarettes.
"Hi!" He heard the man say.
"Hi!" He answered back.
"What's your name?"
"Well, how are you, W.?" He smiled at the boy.
"Who's your mom?" The man questioned.
Yup, that my friends, was a scene from my nephew's birthday party a few weeks ago. I did not know that my father was going to be attending.
Actually, no one did.
The invitation was extended, by my brother, after a few failed attempts to visit with my father. My father was NEVER good at keeping promises. So, really, who would have thought that he'd show up for his grandson's first birthday.
I haven't seen him in quite a few years. Probably since my daughter was born and he graced us with his presence at the hospital. He stayed his usual eight to ten minutes. And that was that.
When I heard he had called and was on his way, a knot in my stomach tightened. He came in and I saw how old he had gotten. I could see the alcohol had finally caught up with him. He's only 67 years old, but the years of self abuse were apparent.
He smiled and spoke in his loud, "Is everyone looking at me" voice. He was still as pompous as ever. I think I rolled my eyes.
My children were all around me and I whispered in each of their ears, "That is your Grandfather Jim." I hated using the word Grandfather. As far as I'm concerned, their Grandfather is, sadly, in heaven. My father-in-law, who loved them dearly, is the only man my children should call Grandpa.
For about an hour, while joined in conversations, of which we were both included, he never spoke directly to me or to my children.
I began to fume. I texted back and forth with Mr. Schmitty, who was at work. I told him that the FUCKER couldn't even acknowledge us!
Then I heard the howling laughter from my brother. He proceeded to tell me the story of my son and my father out by the tree. My father had no idea who I was. He did not recognize me. WTF?!!
My dad came inside and was laughing and trying to hug me, which I guess was his way of apologizing for his screw up. My body, as usual, reacted to his touch by cringing and pulling away. I smiled a half smile and moved on to another topic.
Such was the way of our family. Ignore the dysfunction and sweep it under the carpet.
My brother and I shared a laugh later on that night as we recounted the colossal brain fart my father had exhibited. We always could bond over funny, ridiculous dad stories. I think it was our way of coping and dealing with our shit childhoods.
This one, without a doubt, would be going down in the books.
Laughter....I guess it IS the best medicine for a very, VERY sad situation.