The Long Silence
I had asked my Father if he could drive me to the local garage so I could pick up the car I had left there days before. I can’t remember which car that may have been. There had been so many. Back then, you see, I had lots more hair than money. All my cars were clunkers barely clinging to life. Some hung on for a few months. Some a little longer. I did the best I could to nurture these sundry dying beasts in return for a handful of miles...mobility being a prime concern in youth.
My Dad was tired. He was a manual laborer. He wasn’t all that eager to do much more than shower and eat after he came home from work. Even so, he never turned his back on me. I asked for help often. He always helped.
The mechanic emerged from beneath a car. He was wiping his hands with an oily rag as he approached. He turned to my Father and remarked: “That’s a good lookin’ daughter you got there.”
As I recall it, my Dad chuckled, nodded and replied: “Yes, I guess she is.”
He glanced at me. I’m not sure what he saw. But what he saw troubled him and his eyes dropped to his feet. I’m not sure just what he saw, but I remember my shock. The unexpected, inexplicable and indefensible hurt.
“I’m here to pick up my car” I said to the mechanic. I turned to my Father and muttered: “Thanks. You can go now.”
And so began The Long Silence.
There’s a whole lot I could write about my Father. Given time enough, perhaps I will. But not today. Suffice it for this purpose, I’ll simply say that in all the years previous to this misbegotten day, I had never felt that my Father did not respect or love me. Oh, sure, he had doled out a few (memorable) whuppins and chastisements. Sore butt notwithstanding, I freely admit they were all well deserved.
This was different. Utterly needless and unexpected. More painful than bruises and welts.
It’s not that I hadn’t ever been insulted before. At that time and in that neighborhood disrespect and insults were as common as gravel and salt to any and all who deviated from the “norm.” And the insults were nothing compared to the muggings.
Still. This was different. More painful than any beating I had ever suffered.
This hurt so much that words failed me. I could not speak to him. Couldn’t even look at him. I avoided his presence as best I could. If spoken to, I would simply turn and walk away. And that’s how it was for days, then weeks, on end. The pain took its toll on us both. We suffered in silence. You could see it in our eyes. This was something serious and it was killing us.
I can’t remember how long The Long Silence lasted. Maybe a month. Maybe two. It felt like an eternity.
He approached me one evening, visibly nervous. “I’m sorry” he said. “Please forgive me.”
I hugged him fervently. Forgave him instantly.
All this happened a long, long time ago. In the years that followed, I gave my Father much cause to chastise me (there was the occasional whuppin’ as well). Even so, he never again mocked or insulted me. Never disrespected me. Never once did I not feel his love.
Over the course of that Long Silence, my Father and I had both come to know, in our very marrow, that we held each other precious.