Mother calls Dad out for smoking and dipping too much time on screens, among many other bad habits. You’ve always thought his screen time, unlike yours, was work related, and smoking was due to stress. Both must seem like grown up words to you, sweet little Diane, and I’ve watched you grow up thinking our Dad was always in the right, never driven to temptation. He scolds both of us in a caring but stop-being-a-failure manner, from time management to self discipline, especially with sweets.
I can only imagine how guilty, how I’m-a-loser-like you feel every time your hand reaches inside the fridge, tempted to shove a bag of M&Ms down your throat. I can only imagine how it feels to think less of yourself when you watch Dad’s golden examples. His shining values, projected in a way you’d never believe he’s committed against any of them. But even if he doesn’t have diabetes like you do, you don’t see Mother ordering him to take candy bars down a notch. You weren’t there when I watched Dad shove all the candy down, getting away because he gave Mother enough wine to let her pass out.
And when you ran to your room and I watched your tiny little hands slam the door(how those tiny hands can slam), I thought you ought to know the truth. Presently, I knock on your door, to let you know humans deserve to act like humans. I understand your pain. I don’t understand, however, when you pushed the door in my face (how much those tiny hands can push.) You didn’t know it was simply your lovely big sister. Shame!
You take a step back in apology, those tiny hands (that I’m terrified of, by the way) motioning to let me in. We flop down on your fuschia bed.
‘’Look here, Diane,’’I say, meeting your crestfallen eyes. ‘’Dad isn’t always on his phone for business.’’
‘’Politics, sports, he spends hours watching those.’’
‘’I spend hours watching shows that Dad says don’t matter,’’you confess. ‘’I try to stop, but it’s addicting. I don’t know how he does it.’’
I put a hand on yours. ‘’And you never will because he doesn’t. Dad sneaks sweets and says he’ll go to the gym but he goes to the movie house instead.’’
I can read your thoughts. ‘’Should I believe my rebellious big sister?’’you wonder. ‘’How would she even know about- oh right, because she’s rebellious.’’’
There’s a pause as you think. ‘’What else did Dad do?’’
My mind has several answers. ‘’He tells us to be patient, but he screams at waiters when he gets hungry and crabby. He tells us to be thrifty and he is- until it comes to cars and furniture. He loves his mother dearly, but it doesn’t mean he never talks back to her.’’
You drop your jaw.
‘’But it’s normal for Dad to be imperfect and messed up,’’I went on,’’Not just Dad, everyone.’’
‘’What do we do?’’ You ask. ‘’About Dad and his..’’
‘’Ugly sides,’’I finish, smiling. ‘’Help him. We’re a family, Diane. He’s found our mistakes, and now we both know his. What good shall it bring to shame him? We go down together.’’
Mushy words later, you look convinced. Either with the realization about Dad or your mind bursting with ideas to help him, I don’t know. But you’re so much happier, you even offer me a hug! But..
‘’I think I’ll pass,’’I laugh, standing up. ‘’I’m terrified of your tiny little hands.’’