A lesson in reconciliation with Adventure Girl
‘You look so old.’
I’d just stepped into the restaurant. It took me a moment to recognise him. I was expecting someone tall, bearded and grey: the father I had last seen almost a decade ago.
Instead I saw someone large, someone pink and someone pale. His grey hair had faded to white. It was most noticeable around the eyes. Once blue and slightly beady, they disappeared into his face.
He stood to greet me. He wore a supercilious grin. Some things never change.
I hovered beside the table for a moment. Should we hug, kiss, shake hands? I dived for my seat.
‘There’s quite a bit less of you,’ he said, just as tactfully. ‘A lot less, in fact. Maybe too much less.’
I opened the menu. ‘What do you feel like eating?’
‘I have to be careful, you know, with my diabetes…’ And so began the theatrics. Dinner became a role play. Not of the prodigal daughter and absent father, but a game of show-and-tell where I played reticence and he played look-at-me-now.
I heard all about his new wife, his new daughter, his new life.
Yes, I noticed your ring, I answered. Yes, I know you have a new family. Yes, I know what songs you’d like played at your funeral.
I waited for him to ask me a question. A question about me.
I glanced at my phone. Pretended I wasn’t checking the time.
The game went on.
I grew stubborn. If he wouldn’t ask then I would tell. So I described how I’ve gone back to school, how I’ve been writing, and told him about my new job.
‘My wife writes,’ he responded. ‘And studies. And works.’
Good for her.
I told him I was sorry if I seemed distracted. I’d had a difficult day. I was almost in tears. The one thing I wanted more than anything in the world in that moment was to hear him say something nice, or to be caught up in a big bear hug.
Instead he said, ‘The problem with you is…’
Some things never change. I asked for the bill.