Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dad's Disappearing Act

     Most people dream of having a super power such as extraordinary strength or the ability to fly. My dad didn’t have super powers, but he did have the ability to vanish. Like a great magician, he executed his trick so skillfully that you didn’t notice how it was accomplished.           
     I’d learned in grade school that nature gives every creature the ability to survive: the snow bunny turns white in winter to blend with the snow, and the rock fish is camouflaged to match the ocean floor so predators can’t see it. Dad had similar protection…from my mother.
     Dad was endlessly subjected to her diatribes—she had an opinion on everything. She spent hours answering questions nobody asked—why the country was going to ruin was a particular favorite. She alone knew how to make things right, and she described at length historical parallels to prove her points.     
     During many of these long, unwanted conversations Dad used what I came to think of as The Gift. Mom would be holding court, and at some point she would say, “Leroy, speak up. What are your views on this subject? Are you or are you not a person of your own mind?”
     This was one of my mother’s favorite expressions. To my knowledge, only Frankenstein was not a person of his own mind. By the time my mother reluctantly asked his opinion, Dad had vanished like a poked soap bubble. 
     We would all be sitting around the table, my brother David with his nose buried in a sports magazine and Dad appearing to be interested in all that Mom was saying, and right at the moment when Dad would be required to say something—poof. He’d be gone.
     Sometimes I’d ask David, “When did Dad leave?”
     He’d look up. “Don’t know.”
   “Did you see him leave?”
   I’d feel Dad’s still-warm chair and ponder the wonder of it. How does someone simply vanish? 

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