From his hospital bed Daddy explains to the nurse that my little brother is the stoutest man he has ever seen. He uses this word for strong. Late in life he sizes his children up, telling the doctor that I am his runt. The doctor looks dis/eased by the remark and I want to reassure him that this is as close as my father gets to a compliment. He means perfectly well in his own way.
A year from now in a California hotel I will ask him about his mother, he will tell me she was short and spunky.
In the cemetery my father reaches up to touch my back and says something about the sun beating down on my withers. I ask him to spell the word and he explains it in the process.
“Billie was a good woman,” he said but she had funny ways.” He said as we sat on the porch of the home. “Like how?” I asked him. He explained in example “You’d be watering the garden and she’d come out and turn the water off. I told her, I said Billie, it doesn’t make any sense to put a garden in and not water it. I think I asked if that was because she was worried about the water bill, and I think he said he didn’t know, but I can’t be sure. Before or after this , I think before, somehow we got onto the subject of my ex-husband, maybe he asked how he was. He always seemed to like him. “I never did know why you split up, you always looked like a cute couple, you looked like you were happy.” These were not words I would have ever expected from my father. Cute couple just didn’t seem like a concept he would have. I thought but did not say, as I so often do, Who can remember now. And let the talk roll on to his life when he came to visit around the time we had split up, and the woman he was married to then. “That was the craziest mess I ever got myself into,” he said, or something to that effect. And finally when pressed for explanation, “It just wasn’t the right thing for me.”