Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Great Whatever (blog story) 29

     Your father lives in a part of the city that is filled with Caribbean immigrants. The area is known as little Haiti and it is filled with the smell of strange foods and strange dialects. His place is small, but well maintained. It is a far cry from the lavish house you grew up in.
     You were polite and supportive on your first visit, but you could not help wondering how things had come to this point. Growing up, if someone had asked you if you were middle or upper class you would not hesitate to say your family had plenty of money. Everything was top notch. You went to summer camp in the summer, ski vacations in the winter. There were no ostentatious displays of wealth, but there was never any worry about it either.
     It occurs to you that maybe all of it was an illusion. Your parents did not come from money. Your father had a good job that provided a comfortable life, but all of you were living at the edge of what that could afford. With your mother’s illness and your father losing his job it unraveled quickly.
     You wanted to ask what went wrong, but what your father needed was a friend and a son. If there was any shame he was feeling you were not going to be the one to expose it. Over time, he let pieces to the story leak out. You never prodded him for details.
     He claims he is happy, but behind the smile you think you can see a beaten man. He is not looking for work. You can tell that he does not care. He had you late in life and now pushing sixty he seems resigned to the idea that his life was winding down. He assures you that he is well enough to carry on. You suspect that with your mother gone he has given up.
     Heather joined you that first time. She would not return. The neighborhood made her nervous and she had trouble disguising her disgust for the graffiti and people loitering on every stoop and every street corner. It is a world she wants no part of. It is one that she has taken special care to avoid.
     A strange silence overcomes her. It is as if what she thought she knew and what was the truth wound up being very different things. You feel the same, but in very different ways.

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