There are times when I feel so unlike my parents it’s hard to fathom how someone like me came from those houses, let alone how we’re related. When I’m the last one at the table, plate half full because I rapid-fire talked my way through dinner while everyone else sat silently, dutifully eating their meals and occasionally acknowledging something I said. Or when the house is meticulously organized and decorated for the holidays with not one but two Christmas trees, while I have a baby tree, two feet tall and covered in Tim Burton, plopped in the middle of the hurricane that I call my living space.
Then there are the times that my familial traits are so clear I expect I would answer if someone called me Bill. I may have my grandmother’s nose, my mother’s eyes, and god knows whose height (seriously, how did that happen?), but my father gave me a special gift: his penchant for showing over telling when it comes to feelings.
My dad is a man of few words overall. With six sisters, three wives (one current), and two daughters, I can understand how it would be hard for the poor guy to get a word in edgewise. But even when he has the opportunity, he usually choses silence. When I was young, we would go to the coffee shop together and sit on the swirly stools: he with his coffee, me with my tangy peach juice that still tastes like nostalgia. We would stay there, he would make the required chit chat with the woman who owned the shop (I called her Margie Muffin), and then we would be silent together. I wonder if he knew how difficult it would be for me to sit in silence later in life, if he could sense my need to please people and make sure things are okay allthetime forming, even at that age. Or maybe he just wanted to drink his coffee with his daughter, and silence is his default as much as talking is mine.
Now clearly I am not often at a loss for words. Both here, and in person, I can be … verbose. Sometimes I catch myself talking and talking and it’s like a runaway train. I tell myself to shut up in my head, but my mouth keeps forming shapes that turn into sounds and it goes on for what seems like an eternity. Even so, there are some times when I struggle to find the words I really need, when it matters, when there are feelings.
It may be harder for me to actually say the words, but what I will do is schlepp across town to get your favourite craft beer or cook for you. My father always did all the cooking, and that makes sense now too. He showed up to my high school graduation with flowers; we never talked about how proud he was or anything like that (and in fact, he was a bit of a hardass when it came to my grades), but standing there for the class picture with the bouquet, I knew. When it comes to expressing how I feel about people, I am very much my father’s daughter. It is not just easier to show people how I care than to tell them, it’s my default.
Luckily, Bogart seems to get me and my weird issues. Despite the fact that I yelled and pulled away like I touched a hot oven the first time he used the word relationship, we are, in fact, in one. I guess this will afford me the opportunity to work on finding my words. That, or his favourite brewery will get to know my face very well.