He’d already been hanging around far too long, according to him.
The unclaimed victim of a coronary at fifty, maybe sixty, perhaps seventy… well okay then. Now he just sat and sulked like an old soldier who had missed his date with destiny.
He’d never been wrong about anything as far back as I can remember,
I too believed in the gospel according to dad, until I turned ten and started asking questions.
I learned then that questions were not looked upon favorably and everything I believed was not constant or true and not set in stone.
Two plus two is five.
When we grow up we start asking parents and questioning the philosophical arguments that never get solved or resolved.
Different ideas and ideologies from different worlds separated by decades of technology.
He yelled his points like hammers and spikes crucifying any who disagreed, barking you down as best he could on his home turf dismissing anything that was not his creation.
That last lecture was similar.
I had new skills, though I still gave the respect that comes with being raised on a generous helping of humiliation and fear, but that time something was different.
We talked and argued as we always did, as you do.
I slipped and parried. The anger rose and fell. I knew him as an old fellow opponent.
I knew his ways from the old days and as we argued we also spoke.
I saw words getting through.
I saw words penetrating the battlements of anger and timeless narcissistic righteousness and “everything you say is wrong.” I saw words getting through where they never had before.
This was an old dog and I knew his bark. I knew his bite as well, but the bark was always worse.
His bark was humiliating and dehumanizing. Manipulating and wrought with horrible anecdotes that broke confidence and tore hearts asunder. Yes I knew that bark and I had learned some of my own.
This was tricky, but yes, this was dialogue. I saw a tender spot and an opening and so I asked another of those hard questions. Ones you don’t dare ask in the house, his house, in his territory. It was one of those questions that had only one answer, I was wrong, I’m sorry.
He folded. His head went down in contemplation and acceptance as I waited for an answer.
Then suddenly he reared. He saw where he was and how he had gotten here and rather than acquiesce to a lesser person then him, he rose up. He lashed out and began to bark.
The bark came with that familiar fury and brimstone that I had grown up with, but I knew that now. It was demeaning and wrought with worthless put downs and suddenly something different happened. I felt it. I had felt it before, but I had never released it.
Now, I was not one to be put down.
Suddenly I swelled.
And in swelling I found my voice, my bark, my utterance that came with all the confidence of fed up and done and “I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO LIKE THAT!”
And just like that, I saw the beast shrink before me. I realized that he had been frightened all along. I realized that this was his way and his only way to keep himself above everyone else. I saw his tail tuck and he walked away muttering, two plus two is five.
I found myself that day. I discovered something that he had taken away from me and hidden, and after my bark I found myself standing taller. I stood more assured and I walked away on my own two legs. I had broken free.
It didn’t change anything. Eventually he was right again. If you assume every day is your last, one day it will be. And that stubborn son of a bitch out lived them all, just as I knew he would. He never took the gift and opportunity of time that he was given to appease himself or those around him.
He went on, muttering two plus two is five, right up until the day he died.