Working With My Father

My father’s job as a professor at a “low residency” college meant that he often worked at home. And, for some reason, he especially liked to work while lying on his side on the living room floor. His books and papers were strewn about him. The dog lay there on the rug, too, and jazz music thrummed from the stereo. Dad’s face was turned down toward his work.

I mostly saw him as I passed through the room and stepped over his slippered feet. Once I stopped to ask him what he did all those hours on the floor.

“Oh, I read student papers. Or I work on ideas for articles or my book.”

This baffled me. I liked to write, but hated school and assignments of any kind. How could he be so content doing homework all the time? I shook my head and flitted off with my friends.

I have now been alive for thirteen years without my father in the world. We never became tight in the way I’d have liked to be; he was an intellectual, living in his mind. I wanted sharing, open father-daughter connection. Though I knew he loved me, his way of loving was quiet. It involved gifts sent from afar, amiable dinners at a restaurant when he breezed through town, and lots of dry humor. When I needed to really talk, I called my mom or my siblings.

The water looked cold and deep, but he promised to catch me

The water looked cold and deep, but he promised to catch me

Yet as time passes, I feel increasingly close to my dad. Here I sit on the couch (not the floor, thanks), with my notebook and my books. The dog is curled nearby – her sleepy breath is a metronome. I write in my journal, or revise a chapter of my book, or draft an essay. Or I read and gather ideas for workshops I’m designing.

This way of life has bloomed from a deep place that I couldn’t see years ago. I never got to tell Dad how much I’m like him, or that I understand what he was doing there on the floor.

But now I find that I don’t need to tell him these things. And I don’t need him to explain anything. Finally I’m not stepping over him as I walk by. I am with him – in the ideas, the books and the papers. I am with him in the work.