Thursday night, my dad randomly dropped by around dinnertime. I invited him to stay (whoa, *shocker*), and he did (whoa, even bigger *shocker*). Bobby was working late, so Daddy, Sue and I had dinner together. And honestly, it was the most pleasant time we’ve spent in the same space in a really long time. He was in a quiet, but agreeable mood, and Sue was on an upswing, which means that she had plenty of words to fill any empty spaces. No one brought up any of the sticky or uncomfortable topics — by unspoken agreement, we all seemed to be steering clear of anything that would bring down the evening.
The highlight, in my opinion? This interaction:
Daddy [in a deep SC low-country* drawl]: Sarah, ya know what? You remindin’ me of yo mama mo ever day. I mean, I used to say that Jennifer reminded me of her the most, but just in the last year, you really actin’ mo and mo like her.
And then he laughed… a snicker that implied that this comparison wasn’t entirely a compliment.
Sue: Yep, I agree. The cooking and the yard work. And other stuff…
And she laughs too. And then they look at each other, and then they both laugh.
Me: So for some reason, it feels like I’m being insulted? What’re ya’ll laughing about?
Daddy & Sue: Oh… nothing.
Me [in my sassiest voice]: Well, I’m flattered, regardless of how ya’ll meant it. Humph.
And the conversation left me with a warm, comforted feeling. People, the people who were closest to her, can see my mother in me. There’s no higher compliment.
I can absolutely observe a marked improvement in the relationship that I have with my father. During the last two years, and even in the last two months, we’ve made more progress than during my entire first 30 years. Many variables have contributed — change in circumstances being the most obvious. My mother, who had always served as the mouthpiece and buffer between my father and me, died, leaving Daddy and me to fumble through a harsh, new reality. We’ve also changed — Daddy has settled into his bachelorhood, although he’d be reluctant to admit it. And I’ve become more vocal, more jaded, and more thoughtful than the little girl I was before Mama was rediagnosed.
While Daddy and I were having this conversation last month, I knew it was a breakthrough in our relationship. Even as we were talking, I could feel the importance and impact of our words chipping the rough edges off our relationship, slowly and gradually allowing a new, more mature shape to emerge.
I know that there are many more battles ahead for us, as we continue to go through Mama’s possessions, and as he makes plans to remarry. His and my personalities are fundamentally built to clash, especially over a subject as emotionally charged as the loss of a mother & wife.
But for now, today, I’m going to enjoy thinking of Daddy without the anger, frustration, and bitterness that’s accompanied him in my head for as long as I can remember. So right now, me & my Daddy?… We’re aight.
* What exactly is a “SC low-country drawl,” you ask? Well, here in South Carolina, we have the upstate and then we have the low-country. There’s a part in the middle too, but Clemson fans don’t make a habit of acknowledging it quite as much since it houses the armpit of the South (Univ of SC — heehee, flame away, all Gamecockies out there!)
Anyway. The upper and lower parts of our state have quite different dialects — I’m not sure that it would be detectable to a non-Southern ear, but to us, it’s quite apparent. My father is from the low-country, down around Charleston (which they say “Chaawl-ston” (no R. Never, ever an R). Although his 30-something years in the upstate have diluted his low-country dialect quite a bit, it’s still very much there.
When I was young, for example, he used to tell me that if I didn’t behave, it was “gonna be kady-bahda-do” (translation: I was going to get my tail spanked if I didn’t straighten up). Wasn’t until I got older that I realized what he was actually saying… Katy Bar the Door. Ahhhh, you see? Yeah, I know, probably not. If you have an undeniable curiousity about the origin of this charming little phrase, click here for a witty little NY Times article.