Mr. Raccoon! Mr. Raccoon!
Can't you play with me somehow?
No, I am eating dinner now.
"Let insecurities be blown away by the wind,
People are just too focused on intangible things."
Written By: Takeacake
July 13, 2015
I admire my father. I thought he was invincible and unfazed by life challenges. He could do everything I thought was impossible. He could climb trees as tall as a mountain, and move like a seal through water. He beats me at everything from games, sports or trivia. He is talented, and hard-working. He supports his family by working two jobs while balancing time for himself, his family, and friends. But when I grew older, I realized my father wasn’t the impenetrable shield I imagined.
At the time, my grandfather recently had died of cancer. I didn’t like my grandfather, and I hated listening to his rants about how lazy, disrespectful, and idiotic I was; arguments he held only with himself. Whenever I spoke back to him during these rants, he’d threaten to whip me with his leather belt. Sometimes he’d threaten to beat me just because he wanted to. My grandfather seemed to dislike everyone, including his son, whom he constantly complained about. My father humbled himself before his father and continued to help his father throughout his illness. One day, I asked my dad how he could tolerate his father.
“Don’t mind my old man. He has always been that grumpy, so I’ve learned to accept it,” he said.
Two months after the passing, we stood before my grandfather again. It felt unreal seeing his stoney, aged face. In death he looked at peace, and still, I expected he’d sit up and rant about how shitty he thought his service was run. I had to remind myself this was an abandoned vessel now. My dad didn’t visit the altar to see the corpse nor share any sentiment about his father during service. My father was detached; he stood frozen by the church entrance, isolated from the entire family until it was time for burial. My dad, among other relatives, carried the casket to the grave. We stood at the edge of the grave plot, peering down at the closing obsidian-colored capsule containing what used to be my elder. I had to wipe the tears from my eyes.
My father hadn’t spoken a word on our ride back home, nor had he looked at me, my sisters or my mother. Later, I went searching for him. Supper was ready, and my mother wanted me to gather everyone to the dinner table. I found my dad outside on the patio. He stood in a haze of burning tobacco; he was enjoying a smoke.
“Ma wants you to dinner!” I notified.
“Okay. I’ll be there,” he replied. The patio was ill-lit. His face was eerily illuminated by the burning cigar loosely hanging in his mouth. His eyes looked red and fatigued. He didn’t look at me; instead, he focused on nothing in particular, but the ambient darkness ahead of us. He blew out a puff of smoke. He still wore his suit. It was dirty from the burial. He blew another puff of smoke. My father rarely smokes. He smokes in solitude, but he never stopped anyone from approaching him. He appeared to me like a troubled vigilante who was taking a moment to relax after a tiresome mission; similar to the characters I was fond of in fictional literature and art. I caught myself deep in thought and staring intensely at my dad.
“Is something wrong?”
“No,” I said. I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment.
“Do you miss him, too?”
“Not really,” I replied. I knew he was asking about my grandfather.
“Why not? Didn’t you love him?”
“I don’t think he loved me, so not really,” I confessed.
“But you still cried. Why?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I tried walking away, but my father’s voice stopped me.
“Don’t you wish you could have a better relationship with him? Is that why you cried? It’s not him you miss; you miss the potential of forming a strong bond with your grandfather, isn’t it? Now that he’s gone, you cannot hope to have a better relationship,” he explained. His voice was disquieted. I never heard my father sound so upset.
“I don’t know,” I repeated. I didn’t want to look at him because I was afraid he’d notice my glossy eyes dripping tears.
“I want you to understand my father, and I hope you don’t hate him for his actions. He was especially tough on you because you were the only son of his eldest son. He’s always been this way, but I think it was to prepare me for the cruelty in this world. My father didn't treat everyone like this. He was beloved by our family, and I'm sorry you only experienced his cruelty growing up,” he explained.
I failed to stifle my crying as hiccups of frustration escaped me. I promised myself not to cry over him or his death. I was convinced that I didn't care, yet I was contradicting myself. I was angry; angry at my grandfather, angry at his actions, angry at those he treated better than me, angry at myself, and angry at God for allowing such a relationship. I was bawling aloud. I couldn’t believe how easily I lost my composure, but I settled once my father wrapped me in his arms. I clung to him; my arms tightly closed around his torso. My breathing was hoarse and my chest heaved through shaky breaths. He comforted me and we stood together in mutual silence until I decided to part from my father’s embrace.
“I’m hungry, so I’m going inside,” I announced.
“I’ll join you,” he said, and together we walked back inside. When we entered our kitchen our family looked puzzled. It was obvious we had been crying because our eyes were stained, yet no one questioned it. My mother didn’t complain that my father hadn’t changed out of his dirty suit nor did she mention how late we were to the table. She served us our meals, and we enjoyed a quiet, humble supper that night.