If I could go back to that January morning – the one where I was too tired to get up and drag myself to the breakfast table to have our traditional sausage and biscuits together, in lieu of moping around in my bedroom for a few extra minutes, commiserating (with myself only) over another upcoming grueling day at work – I still wouldn’t have told him not to go. I don’t think I had the right to do that.
He had taken early retirement that year and was enjoying doing the things he loved most. Now that the lake waters were drained down and the sandbars were plentiful, his playground had been made abundant as he and my uncle puttered along in their little boat, one makeshift island to the other, hour after wintry hour. No one mandated their time or their efforts there. No one had yet come along to say that the collections they lovingly catalogued, displayed and cherished as part of their Native American ancestry was illegal. The government didn’t give fines for their long hours spent collecting small pieces of pottery on those sandbars and restoring them back to a condition in which others could understand a little more about a culture long changed, or a new culture that had been created in our household as I helped my father painstakingly label the periods of these pieces for his proud display. How could I have told him not to go?
I was 21. A woman. I had recently graduated and had my first real job (real, as in it paid slightly more than minimum wage and I had gone to college to do it). Our time together was limited based on that circumstance alone. It had been 11 years since she’d left us; more than that since she’d grown ill and been housed in medical facilities. I’d grown up listening to his deep, bass sobs coming from his bedside at night, long after he thought I’d gone to bed and was fast asleep. He’d missed her. He’d needed her. He hadn’t known what to do without her, being left alone with a child to raise – much less, a daughter. On his final earthly day, that fateful boating accident allowed him – finally – to go home to be with her once more. How could I have told him not to go?
Revisiting that morning, I wouldn’t go back to tell him not to go. It would’ve been selfish of me. He had been the only comforting strength that I had known for so many years, especially whenever he placed his huge hand firmly over my shoulder and reminded me to hold my head high and be strong; I was his little soldier. I put on my soldier face as they brought his body from the water that day, as they still searched for his only brother, my uncle. It was then I knew my one regret.
My stomach growled to remind me. Sausage and biscuits. Our staple breakfast meal for as many years as I could remember because they came straight from the freezer into the oven onto our plates. We always kept grape jelly as a special treat to share. I wished I’d had our sausage and biscuits that morning. I wish I’d told him my troubles for the day as I laid out those biscuits, then told him to go enjoy his day as I added that jelly. I wish I’d thanked him for all he’d done for me through the years. I wish I’d asked what he would’ve wanted done with his many pieced-together artifacts. And a picture. I wish I’d somehow taken a picture of the two of us together…so I’d have just one to remember him by. Most of all, I wish I’d hugged up against his big, warm body, under those strong, protective arms, and for one last time remembered to tell him, “I love you, Daddy.”
Others’ re-historical writings are located at Daily Prompt: Revisionist History