Several of the boys I had been out with recently noted the absence of my father in my stories. They ask if I'm close with my family and I respond, "Yes, I visit my mother often because she needs me." They ask how I spend the holidays and I say it's just me and my mom and we don't really celebrate anymore.
Eventually my date will shift uncomfortably in his chair and shift his glass. "So, uh, what about your father?" Meaning, is he dead?
My father called me last night. He inhaled sharply, excitement bubbling from his voice, "Your stepmom and my wedding anniversary is tomorrow. It's been 25 years. That's a long time!"
He wants me to share his enthusiasm, but all I can think is, Wow, 25 years since you woke me up out of bed in the middle of the night and told me you were moving out of the house. It's been 25 years since you told my mom you were a cheater, and always would be a cheater. Yet you found another woman with other children and managed to stick around for them. No, I can't share your excitement over your big accomplishment, daddy.
I remember my mother crying at the top of the staircase with my brother. I was too young to understand. I remember my father telling us the new woman needed him, "She wears polyester clothes and doesn't own a vacuum cleaner, for God's sake!"
Because it was the mid-eighties, courts relegated my father to every-other-weekend access. I saw my father 52 days out of every 365. Fourteen percent of the time.
My father, who is not a movie man, declares Doctor Zhivago his favorite film of all time. He is not quiet about this opinion, speaking of it often and nonchalantly. As I think about it now, it almost seems he works it in conversation. What are we watching? Some dumbass movie? My favorite is Doctor Zhivago—great love story. I used to think he said it because it was probably the only movie the man had seen.
In an effort to feel closer to my father, I watched the film several years ago. For three hours I watched my father's favorite love story unfold: a man who leaves his wife and child to live with another woman and raise her child. All of a sudden, the reasons why my father loved this movie so much became apparent. And I grew sick to my stomach.
For I was Sasha.