I was *standing*. Just like Trish and Melinda, just like all the other kids in the neighborhood. Without braces, or crutches or anything to mark me as different. Even if the only way I could do it was with my Dad supporting me, leaning against the knee he put against the small of my bony little back. It didn't matter, it was me and Dad and we were standing together.
When I was younger I didn't like to look at that picture. I used to think that somehow my dad was ashamed of the braces and the wheelchair, all the paraphenalia of my handicap. That he didn't want a kid who was different so he had to pretend. It was hard to look at that photo, as innocuous as it is.
Now I know that it wasn't anything to do with being ashamed of me. It was just like his taking to the ocean. Like his taking me to Salt River canyon even if I was in a cast up to my belly button. He wanted me to experience everything. He didn't want me to miss a thing. Even what it felt like to stand up, alone.
Now my father's drifting away, swept further and further out to sea. The future and the present slip further and further of his grasp, and he's left with all the broken pieces of his past. He sits sometimes, and looks at nothing much, surrounded by a group of amiable strangers, in a place that he finds somewhat familiar.
It doesn't matter Daddy. I remember. I am here, and I'll hold down my corner of the past, and keep it warm and alive with you. I don't have everything, there's a whole lot of your life that I wasn't a part of. But the part you shared with me, I have, and I cherish it. Each of us will keep our little pieces alive and burning. Maybe this is something we need to experience together, this slow dissolution. It's hard to let go of you, Daddy. It's hard to watch you let go of all the things I thought were such an integral part of you. But I've learned something too..nobody can take your dignity away from you. If someone else thinks it's gone--that's them, Dad. Not you. I love you. I'm so proud of you. You were a good Dad. And you still are. Still showing me stuff I need to know. Stuff I need to experience. I only pray that I'm brave enough to see what you're showing me, without trying to hang onto what was so hard.