Tree Trunk Falling

October 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

I thought my father was a tree. The way he stood between the church pews, still and unmoved, when everyone else swayed. I pretended my father was a tree. I’d count the rings in his palms to find his age and when he wore green, I knew I was right. My father was a tree and I was a squirrel, skittering around his feet, across his shoulders, dangling from his burly arms.

I drew my family at school one time and my teacher wanted to know why my mother held the branch of a grinning tree. She thought I didn’t have a father. I thought she didn’t have sense. Surely it was obvious that my father was the tree.

When the ancient pine crashed down on our house, that one wet summer in ’99, I wondered if that was how all trees died: consumed by their environment. My father told me about the circle of life, but I didn’t understand, so we watched Lion King until I got it. I learned about baobab trees and started to wonder what kind of tree my father was.

In 2005, when the second set of neighbors lost kids to a drunk driver, I realized my father was an oak tree. His Spanish moss beard. His steady roots digging deep into the ground he chose for them, unrelenting when she begged him to move neighborhoods. I never worried, even after another driver crashed into our garage and died there, a piece of his windshield sticking out of his forehead. My father said “survival of the fittest” and I was glad he was fit, because when trees fell and the world crashed into our house, he stood against its movement and spread his arms like the old oaks to keep us safe. But even oak trees fall sometimes. I’d thought my father was a tree; I knew it when he fell.

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