Alysia Abbott

I Remember My Father Sitting ...

I remember my father sitting cross-legged on his slouchy futon couch, writing in his spiral notebook with a cigarette dangling from his lips. In between scribbles, his right foot would jiggle and he would take a drag from his cigarette or flick ashes into the ashtray on the end table.

I remember my father making tuna & noodle casserole, how he tapped the envelope of cheese powder with his middle finger, sprinkling the cheese powder in a circular motion over the cooked noodles, milk and butter.

I remember the quarters my father pulled daily from his pockets and stacked in rows along his bookshelf. These columns of quarters would grow taller throughout the week until Sunday when they were used for laundry.

I remember my father pulling me to his lap at parties and I remember how his body would quake and how his chest would vibrate whenever he spoke or laughed.

I remember my father picking his nose.

I remember learning about sex by reading through my dad's collection of Zap comics when he was out of the house. One day I took a stack of the comics down to the garbage because I thought they were "too dirty."

I remember hiding my dad's pot and Men-on-Men books before my friends came over.

I remember asking my dad if we could "westle awound the woom."

I remember my father trying to quit smoking with the aid of Hershey's Kisses and a rubber baby pacifier.

I remember my father watching the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" and ignoring me as I can canned for his attention in front of the TV set.

I remember my dad calling me "wild child."

I remember the button-down shirts that my father wore with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows.

I remember my father spanking me twice. Once when I poured laundry detergent all over the backseat of the car and the second time when I turned on "Charlie's Angels" after he'd told me to go to bed.

I remember my father asking me, teeth flashing in a sweet grin: Did everyone at school like your new hairdo? And my responding with barely concealed hostility: It's a hairstyle and I don't know what everyone thought of it.

I remembering my father teasing me: "Dad, I'm hungry." "Hi hungry, how are you?"

I remember my father washing his hair in the bathroom sink and the sound of the water dripping off of his scalp and splashing into the sink full of water.

I remember my father waking up and stepping into the jeans he'd left the night before crumpled accordion-like next to his bed.

I remember the notes my father scribbled on the backs of envelopes and left for me on our dining room table: "Here's $5 for dinner. I'll be home after 8pm. Love, Dad."

I remember squirming with pain as my father brushed the knots out of my hair.

I remember singing to my father (to the tune of Chaka Kahn's Feel for You): "Papa-san let me rock you. Let me rock you Papa-san. Let me rock you Papa-san. That's all I want to do. Papa-san let me rock you. Let me rock you Papa-san. Let me rock you Papa-san 'cause I feel for you."

I remember selling all of my father's Diamanda Galas records at the used record shop because I thought they were "too weird."

I remember my father telling me: "It's okay to let boys kiss you but don't let them touch you under your clothes because this will make them want to do more."

I remember chasing my father around the house with scissors trying to cut off his "tail" which he'd just bleached blonde.

I remember how my father attracted cats to his lap wherever we went.

I remember my father taking me to see John Water's movie Polyester in Smell-o-Rama and showing off the scratch-and-sniff numbered sheet handed out at the movie to my fifth grade class the next day.

I remember my father never agreeing to go down the cement slides with me at the playground in Golden Gate Park no matter how much I begged him.

I remember reading Garfield comic books while waiting out the poetry readings my father dragged me to at City Lights Bookstore.

I remember my father buying me Mad magazines and fixing me Chunky Chicken Noodle soup and Jello molds with banana when I stayed home sick from school.

I remember my father driving me to Pier 39 so that I could buy Smurfs and candy.

I remember the yellow sweat-stains in all of my dad's t-shirts.

I remember my father standing with hands in jean pockets, bowlegged knees wagging as we waited for the 7 Haight bus downtown.

I remember my father cursing loudly at Ronald Reagan on TV.

I remember laying a piece of Toblerone chocolate on my father's hand while he slept on the boat ride across the English Channel. By the time he awoke the chocolate had melted into a soft brown blob and I couldn't stop laughing at his confused reaction.

I remember my father returning from the Gay Pride Parade wearing red lipstick.

I remember my father taking me with him to the bank and me, tired and bored, pulling on his hand asking when we could leave.

I remember my father finally letting me shave his face when I was thirteen. I lathered his face then very slowly shaved his cheeks before he took over and finished the job.

I remember my father pronouncing café to rhyme with buffet and wash to rhyme with Porsche.

I remember my father carrying our cardboard box-full of dirty clothes down the street and returning with our clothes clean and folded and our socks rolled into fist-sized balls.

I remember falling asleep in my father's room while watching "Friday Night Videos" and cursing him as he carried me up to my loft bed.

I remember my father calling the remote control "the clicker."

I remember being repulsed by the sound of my father slurping cereal in the morning.

I remember getting my hair cut boy short at age 13 and my dad playing with the hair on the nape of my neck as I sat in front of him because he thought from the back I looked like a "cute boy."

I remember playing hide and seek with my father in the trees in Golden Gate Park and convincing myself that if I couldn't find him I'd be an orphan.

I remember calling my father from my college dorm room and my father asking me why I only phoned him when I was depressed.

I remember getting my middle finger stuck with a thick splinter while playing in the Panhandle and my father gently removing the splinter then walking me to McDonald's for a treat.

I remember my father's hands manipulating the rubber net wheel of our Volkswagen bug as he drove me to school.

I remember my father liked the skinny young guys.

I remember getting upset with my father after he shaved off his moustache because he didn't look like my daddy anymore.

I remember my father saying he wished he could live to see me a "harried mother."

I remember learning Tai Chi with my dad in the Panhandle and my quitting because I kept missing all the Saturday morning cartoons.

I remember my father liked my friend Camille best.

I remember passing a note scribbled on a piece of brown paper bag to my father across our dining room table: "I got my period and I think I'm developing a little." He rushed over to hug me and I pushed him away red with embarrassment.

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