Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Burning Question

Ironically, Dad met Bud at an AA meeting. I was fifteen at the time that he introduced us (I don't remember the time/place/circumstance) and Bud and I started "hanging out." We'd go fishing. It was fun; he bought me stuff, like soda, snacks, and even a shirt or two, as I recall. He called me "Sweet Stuff."

Not all that weird, unless you consider that he was about 60 years old. Having known no personal boundaries up to this point (another blog post, maybe one day), I considered it a compliment that he obviously felt affection for me; I enjoyed the attention, to be honest.

Bud would pick me up in his big, old, red Cadillac, and we'd drive to a lake somewhere. I remember that once or twice, he let me drive the car; I in the driver's seat, and he sitting right next to me (in case I wrecked, I guess; I had no driver's license.) He'd put his arm around me (to help me steer, of course.) Somewhere during this time, I learned that Bud had cancer. I remember that when we were fishing, he'd have me turn around so that he could empty his colostomy bag. (I know; this is not my typical post, is it? Sorry.)

I was only in Bud's house once, that I recall. It was the last time. Dad had dropped me off. Bud wasn't feeling well, I guess, because he was taking a lot meds for pain, and he seemed weak and a little out-of-it. I don't remember feeling uncomfortable around Bud, until that moment, when he said, "So, it's your birthday, huh? Sweet 16 and never been kissed? We'll have to take care of that." And a light turned on inside my head, and, I swear, that was the first time I saw Bud as anything other than a nice old guy. A rot settled quickly into my stomach, and my heart began pounding. What was I going to do?! My mind started racing, and I felt very confused; why was Bud acting so weird?!

A moment later, I heard a car pull into the driveway, and I realized it was my dad. Thank God! I didn't even care to wonder why he had come back. Elated, and with a false cheeriness (didn't want to hurt Bud's feelings or upset him), I said to Bud, "I guess I have to go!" I quickly hugged him goodbye (Yeah, I know that's that's weird) and rushed out the door.

My dad and I did not have a close father-daughter relationship, but I did respect him. I would have never spoken disrespectfully to him, so when I got into the car, I tried to sound casual, asking, "What made you come back to get me?" He replied something about just having a "funny feeling" after he dropped me off; something about thinking Bud's demeanor "wasn't right."

I never saw Bud again after that day. Dad just told me I wasn't going to be going fishing with Bud anymore, and I didn't question it. A few months later, Mom mentioned casually that Dad was gone to Bud's funeral (the cancer had won.) I thought it odd that no one had mentioned the funeral to me until it was too late to go. A part of me wanted to go (he had been very, very nice to me and made me feel special) but another part of me was perfectly okay with not going.

Dad's no longer alive, so I feel comfortable saying this: Dad, to use a phrase you often used yourself, What the hell were you thinking when you encouraged a relationship between a grown man and your teenage daughter?! Seriously. WTF? I mean, I'm glad you came back to the house that day--really, you have no idea how glad I am, but what was I doing there in the first place?

My dad did have some big faults, but he really, truly was a smart, incredibly hard-working man who loved his family and, I think, treasured me. This chapter in my life really doesn't seem to fit in my story. To this day, I wonder what in the world this was all about. I'm pretty sure I'll never know the answer to my questions. Rest assured, it does not keep me up at night, certainly, but I would love to have the missing pieces of this puzzle.

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