Dating my dad

I knew what made my mom tick; she was transparent in every way. “You dad doesn’t want you to use real sugar at your tea parties anymore. I imagined him standing in the doorway, observing my tea parties and then vanishing just as I turned my head to look.When I was away at college, I received the most mortifying request of all: “Your dad found your condoms while we were moving your old dresser.Please don’t leave that stuff around.” What bugged me more than the icky feeling of knowing that my dad knew I was sexually active, though, was knowing that my dad knew I’d grow up, without him.I’d moved out, fallen in love, taken my first steps into adulthood, and was still only capable of small talk with him. The following summer, I was home from college and, unfortunately, living down the block from my boyfriend, Corby, whom I’d broken up with only a few weeks earlier.I’d even embellished the encounter, writing about positions we hadn’t done and orgasms I hadn’t come close to. As my mother continued to comfort me with a variety of sugary snacks, the doorbell rang. His words were rushed, and then he broke into tears. I don’t know how long I was out there, but when I came back in, the kitchen was dark and everyone had gone to bed. “I had a girlfriend in high school, before I met your mother,” he continued. The idea of moving on without looking back, even if it hurts, felt tangible. And after years of small talk, the fact that my father had had an ex-girlfriend before my mom was shocking to me. The assumption that my dad and I were tight often tugged at my heart.Only my father was still up, reliably watching opening monologue. “I liked her a lot, but after we broke up, we never talked to each other again. I heard a few years ago that her husband passed away from cancer. I wasn’t the only one in the room with an unshared side of my life. I sat down and watched the rest of with him in silence. In the years since Corby, he and I had gone back to our old ways: I spoke to him on holidays, and in the entire year of 2007, only once, on Christmas.

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I threw my head back in a desperate attempt to catch them. Like everyone else, I hit milestones throughout my 20s: I had new romantic relationships and painful breakups; I landed new jobs and promotions; I traveled, I performed on stage, I had one cool night when I met Bruce Willis.

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On one of my recent visits home, we talked about Cleveland sports teams and then watched the final two minutes of the 1988 AFC Championships on You Tube, in which the Browns fumbled and suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Denver Broncos. My dad was raised by second-generation Italian Catholic immigrants in a town where many of the adults still preferred to speak Italian over English. Maybe he took his grandmother’s words a little too literally, because my dad spent the majority of my childhood not doing a lot of talking.

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