It was long after my father died that I realized I had no idea of who he really was. I didn’t know what he thought or dreamed about or even much of what he liked. I never asked him. He seemed to have a gift of taking away my voice. In my memories of my childhood, I see myself, for the most part, as mute in his presence.
Our only meeting place seemed to be horses, riding together and going to the events I participated in as a teenager. It was the closest connection we had, but even around the horses, disapproval hovered like a stifling cloud in the air. I was never quite good enough, fast enough, sharp enough. I didn’t mount cleanly and my balance wasn’t as good as it should be and if I only weighed 20 pounds less, I would be able to beat anyone.
We were going out for a hamburger after the show at the Montague Homecoming Fair and I was looking forward to parking at the A&W and ordering a cold root beer in a frosty heavy glass mug which the car hop would place on a tray clamped to the car window. We detoured down Davis Street and pulled into the driveway beside Mrs. McCloud’s house where she was sitting on the side porch. I thought for a second my father was going to brag about my championship ribbon. It was beautiful, with a gold medallion and three streamers, red, yellow and blue. And he did, sort of. He held up the ribbon and she clapped her hands, but then he held up my five second-place red ribbons and said “How do you like my second place daughter?”
I cringed, but I also felt a white hot ball of fury in my stomach. The championship was awarded for the highest combined points of the day, and although five people had won first places in front of my five second places, they were five different people and they each had less cumulative points than I did. Today had been a rare time when I didn’t get at least one first place, and I still won the championship.
There were robins hopping around on the lawn of the house next to the driveway. I remember I focused on them trying to guess which one would find a worm first. If I concentrated hard enough, I hardly could hear the rest of their conversation.