People You May Know

My father, the year I was born.

My father, the year I was born.

I have a myth in my mind.

In the myth, I am 36 years old, and I meet my father at my mother’s funeral.  Or, rather, at her wake.  It is the hour before the public is set to arrive, the designated funeral home “family hour” from 3 until 4 pm when only close family members gather to see my mother in her casket.  And yet, there he is.  My father.  A bearded stranger.  Pacing back and forth behind a row of metal folding chairs in the back of the room.

He is there, yes, that’s him.  But we’ve met before.

I met my father around my 18th birthday.  His mother lived in my town, and though I’d had little to no contact with her over the years, she’d sent me a card with money in it for my high school graduation and, in lieu of writing her a thank you note, I called.  She was happy to hear from me, and I remember feeling the warmth of that, her grandmotherly embrace, and somewhere during that phone call she asked if I’d like to come over for a visit to look at some family photos and I asked where my father was, and I said it rather boldly, like, “Do you know where Lee Roy is these days?”, feeling all grown up at age 18 and out of high school, and she said he was living right there in town, “right up the road!” and would I like to meet him, maybe next Sunday, at her house?

At least that’s how I remember it.  The edges are so watery.

A few years ago, I logged into Facebook and, in the sidebar on the right a photo appeared under the words PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW.  An elderly man with dark, slicked-back hair and a gray beard; eyebrows raised as if puzzled or lost; glasses reflecting the light of a camera; my father’s name underneath.  I clicked on his photo and, with the magic that happens only in cyberspace, landed in my father’s internet life.

There he was with his family: wife, sons, a daughter.  A photo montage of the porch he’d recently built on the front of their house, the stages of its construction set against red brick and clipped green grass.  I have a thing for porches — always wanted one, never had one — kind of like having a father?  And my father builds porches?  He could build me a porch?  He could stay for Sunday supper??  There are status updates about going to the Baptist church (he’s a Baptist?), asking after the health of friends, warning of a coming thunderstorm (“a big one on it’s way”), his back-and-forth banter about a private joke I’m not in on.

I noted his birthday.  My father has a birthday.  How had I never considered this?  Born on November 29.  A Sagittarius.

I typed the words “Sagittarius Characteristics” into my browser and these traits appeared on my screen:  magnanimous, honest, expansive, generous, reckless, extroverted, proud, larger than life, free.

I remember the day he sent me a Facebook Friend Request.  I remember how I pressed the ignore button immediately.  He disappeared.  And the next time I typed in his name to check his FB page, all but his profile photo had disappeared.  No more banter or jokes or storm warnings.  No more building of porches.  His life no longer available to the public.  And the public is me.

I met my father at my mother’s funeral.  A myth I’m still holding on to, though for what reasons, I can’t decide.

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22 thoughts on “People You May Know

  1. lisahgolden

    I cannot think of a clever thing to say. Teri, I admire you so much for so many reasons. Your writing has always been so powerful, but these most recent posts are especially strong. I hope that what we’re seeing here reflects what’s happening with your memoir. You seem to have that elusive self-confidence to write what you need to write and not what’s not going to upset people.

    1. Teri Post author

      I can’t explain it all, Lisa, but you’re right. Something has opened up and it’s like I’ve shoved the fear off my desk long enough each day to get words on paper. And then I’m terrified again —- I worry about long-lost cousins who might read me and disagree, completely irrational but there — but I go back and do it again anyway.

      Hey, wasn’t the big meet up this weekend?! Who came and how was everybody? Are there photos?! 🙂

      1. lisahgolden

        We did get together and not a single photo was taken. At least not while I was there. We consisted of Lyra, Amy, Laura, Sherry, Sarah, me and a friend of Sherry’s named Terri. It was a great time and too short. I think the group that got in Saturday and spent the night (everyone except Amy and me) have the real stories to tell.

        Were your ears burning? We spoke lovingly of you.

    1. Teri Post author

      Because the boy in that photo is young enough to be my son. Because the boy in that photo is about 19 or so, the age I was when I kinda-sorta met him? ‘Round and ’round we go.

  2. Shanna

    Weeping. You are fucking on FIRE. Xoxoxoinfinity

    Sent from an iPhone that arbitrarily changes my words and often makes me sound illiterate.

    >

  3. donnaeve

    On the floor, cross-legged. A Christmas tree nearby. Youthful, open faced boy.

    To Averil’s observation, I remember my mother’s fiftieth b’day party. A sign said, “ain’t it nifty, Ginny’s fifty.” And now, I’m there and beyond, and it’s hard to imagine her at this age.

    Either way, loving your posts these days!

  4. amyg

    If only your father could have built you a porch, it feels like things would have been easier that way, right? Maybe. These experiences we have – both real, and surreal – life w/out a father who shows up in your FB feed. It’s all so…bizarre.

    From another angle…dear lord, this writing!!

  5. Lyra

    These posts are so beautiful.
    God, Facebook. If ever there was something that touched upon its insidious nature it’s this post. To go without for so long and then to be able to reach out with no more than a click of a button…to see the man who left with his family…your sister…oh, Teri. Love.

  6. Once You Go Black...The Blog

    Oh, Teri, this is heartbreaking. I’m crying. We have much in common. I applaud your bravery, that you bear your soul like everything depends on it. Although, that is mark of a great writer. Thank you. I’m encouraged.

  7. lbeth1950

    You’ve hooked me. I’ve always wondered about families split asunder, wondering if someone didn’t care at all, cared too late, or just cared about the wrong things.

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