Of course it was laughing that brought him back to me.
Spoiler: this is a post about the power of playing together to reunite, reignite and invigorate the core love a family shares and knows and can and should swim in. If that doesn’t interest you, thanks for visiting our blog and have a majestic father’s day wherever you are.
As a young mother, in full time college, I agreed to work with my father in construction, even though it made me nervous and wiggly feeling on the inside. In those days, I thought a relationship was whatever it appeared to be. Mine with my father was virtually impenetrable. Compared to some of my vital friendships, he felt as real to me as a piece of firewood, and then there was all that childhood ballyhoo lurking in the shadows. Ack! Did I want to spend my day next to THAT!?
I was confused. I thought that us not knowing or actively loving each other was the inescapable truth, and not simply a result of my cluttered, sloppy and unexamined thinking.
We’d spent a lifetime accumulating stories (he’s never there for me, she’s dangerous, selfish, careless etc.) Day after day, as we worked side by side, we were not seeing each other, but our stories of each other. And that tight restricting sense of not being able to be myself continued.
I don’t think I’ll ever really know what broke it open. I’m kind of a miracle junky, so let’s just say my profound wantingness to be Inside of love brought a silly little miracle.
It’s early morning. I’m alone in the cathredral part of the living room, way up high, and was really into what I was doing. I was smoothing a rounded wall, and the morning light was following the lines with a kind of tender helpfulness. We had oldies playing and I remember consciously realizing that I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
And then an unfamiliar voice rang out, in a deep and unfamiliar Bronx accent “Hey Lucy!”
My mind was like one of those machines they use to check your vision at the eye doctor as it flipped through the lenses of perception, first fear, “holy crap, is there a stranger way out here?” then, “where the heck is my dad?” then, “that voice sounded a little familiar” then a few beats, I put my trowel down and settled back onto the scaffolding, feeling the light follow the lines of this movement with the same generous tenderness, as I answered, in an equally deep and unfamiliar Bronx accent, like I was suddenly a Mario-esque wise-cracking character about to argue with Mama about too much spice in the sauce, and with only the tiniest nervous quiver,
I heard a small chuckle from somewhere deep in the house. And then that same voice asked me to bring him some tool, except, it wasn’t me, it was,”You lazy SOB, ‘ow many times, I gots to ax ya … ” and the game, suddenly, was afoot.
No longer were we estranged father and daughter, but Lucy and Goosey, rough, joking workers who didn’t give a shit about being careful with each other, and had no broken history so we just played for the funniest joke, the funnest possible scenarios. We were both transported by the role playing and I was genuinely curious about what he’d say next. I was so absorbed in the moment that I didn’t have the bandwidth to note, but later I realized that I was absolutely thrilled by the sudden fluency and levity in our interaction, it was a dream come true to have that kind of access to my father’s playful heart. And as the game deepened, I found myself sometimes too stunned by the depth of his humor to even laugh properly. The deeper we played, the more the politeness dissipated like a bad fog.
Through these sudden, silly roles, we’d miraculously found a way to act ourselves around each other. I’ve never encountered quite so severe a relational shift as that. And I’m still kind of in love with the sweet magic of it. We never went back to our former relationship. We never hashed out the stuff that happened in our earlier relationship, when I was working out how to be a free, happy, kid and he was working out how to be a free, happy dad because that never seemed fun. Lucy and Goosey would never dicker like that. They talked about gettin’ a slice and takin’ off work early to dive off the pier.
I find myself using my conscious play tools to maintain the deep knowingness that I discovered with him, of our inherent joyfulnessness and our ability to access it, together, at will. You can find those lovely tools here if you’re curious.
Once in while, after a particularly fun playtime together, he’ll sigh and say something like “I wish I’d played more with you when you were younger”
To which I reply,