Day 5 comes from one of my all time soul-sisters, Miss Emma Jane Phelps. Or as I like to yell at her like my nose is forever stuffed, EBBA JADE PHALPS. (If it gets weird, please understand that we became friends doing some weird theater and experiencing ALL levels of teen angst. We were gomers.) Emma is a rare soul. She is so creative and so passionate and so unapologetic about it. It’s refreshing every time you talk to her. I feel like a lot of people hide what they love or curb their enthusiasm based on their audience, but not Emma. She just loves. On that same vein, I love that she isn’t abrasive or disrespectful about other people’s passions, even when they clash with her own. She has opinions but has the beautiful ability to love and listen to other opinions. I feel like there isn’t a single person she couldn’t befriend, and also not a single situation where she would compromise who she is is. I feel completely at ease with Emma, no matter where I’m at in life or whatever I want to talk about. I also feel like whatever sharp lefts or curveballs either of us take in life, we will stay friends because we love each others’ hearts. I love me some Emma, and I love what she shares about love, loss, and the ability to re-examine and rebuild.
“I have a memory of sitting in my dad’s lap on a Sunday afternoon. Earlier that day, he’d taken me down to the grocery store and together we selected a dinner of steak that he marinated perfectly, baked beans, and carrots. As we reached the check out stand, I realized that all I wanted in the world was some peach fruit leather. I let out a little puff of a sigh and resigned myself to waiting until I was dropped off at my mom’s house later that night to gorge myself on fruit leather. But my dad asked me what I wanted and I told him. He then did the scariest thing imaginable to a girl of 10: he left me in the check out stand while he went to grab something he forgot. I stared at the zitty Smith’s employee with an awkward smile plastered to my face and whispered, “Um my dad will be right back…so…” and my dad rounded the corner. He was carrying the jumbo super ultra sized box of fruit leather and plopped it down, patted my head, and we went home. After we ate so much steak and so much fruit leather, I sat on his lap as he dozed in front of the TV and I rested my head on his chest as it rose slowly. The house was quiet for the first time in months with my step mom gone again. The remote fell out of my dad’s hand and I eased my hand into his and I can still see so clearly how big his hand was holding mine. This is the happiest memory I have of my dad, something so tiny and simple and just caked in love the size of his hands.
My parents got a divorce when I was 7. My dad told me about it as I watched Catdog on Nickelodeon and I didn’t even register what he had told me until he left the house later that night and didn’t come back. Then my sister, my mom, and I moved into our new house and a few weeks after, we went to see the new house my dad would be living in. It was huge and had a basketball court that to me was the single most awesome hill to roll down in the entire world. The divorce didn’t upset me much then as it meant that I had scheduled time with my dad for the first time in my life. I was with him every other weekend and Wednesday nights but soon I was asking for every weekend with my dad. Until he met his new girlfriend, and ultimate second wife. Her hair was a red that was nearly black and the texture of dried hay coated in dried blood. Her face had suffered one too many nose jobs and her eyes were painted with permanent cruelty. She was, in essence, the opposite of my dad and the end of my childhood.
Suddenly the dad I loved was gone and wrapped up in battling with this stranger who had appeared in his amazing new house. His face was always contorted in anger and I mostly just tried to stay out of his way. They fought a lot and there were months at a time when I didn’t talk to my dad because I was so angry with him. The breaking point hit when I turned 16 and cut him out of my life until I was 18 years old. For two years I denied that I had a father, denied that I had ever shared fruit leather on the couch while we watched severely problematic Japanese game shows. But one evening, my sister called me and told me my dad missed me. She listened to me cry and explain why I hadn’t been speaking to him when I discovered something: I didn’t know if the man I hated was even my father. The father I knew was never the man he was when he was wrapped up in Hell. I started crying even harder and agreed to see my dad for dinner for the first timeand my sister booked a flight out from Texas to join us. I remember telling my sister that I felt like Cordelia finally forgiving her father, King Lear, and I was so excited to feel that love between a father and daughter that cannot and will not be broken.
The dinner was awkward but exciting as we reintroduced ourselves to each other cautiously. After dinner, I went to see his new house and he showed me his new iPad. He was so excited to show me the one book he had downloaded in the Books app he had. My dad is not a big reader, but there alone on that digital bookshelf, was King Lear. He looked so proud as he told me about how he was trying to read it as he heard I was a fan of the play. I will never forget how nervous he looked as he spoke to me, like he was waiting for me to dash out of the house or slap him across the face. But I just put my hand on top of his and saw again how big they were in comparison to mine, and how much love I had for him.
I am so happy to have the relationship I have with my dad now. He is 100% always there for me to help me buy new cars, tell me I’m beautiful when boys break my heart, and still gives the best hugs a daughter could want. He calls me just to ask if I’m ok when he hears that Lady Gaga and Leo Dicaprio may be fighting (because he knows my love for him could only be rivaled by my two true loves), and he always remembers my love of literature when we pick movies to see together. He is sensitive and kind and I am so proud to be his daughter. I love him with all of my heart and cannot wait for our next Daddy/Daughter date.”