I have grown up into the junior adult I am today with the notion that a vast majority of the great mysteries, overwhelming emotions, and paralyzing conundrums of my life have already been written for me. Books are transportation devices to times, places, and conditions that make us feel less alone; they’re my favorite way to satiate my endless fascination with human nature without having to interact with too many actual humans.
There are self-help books on an endless slue of subjects and I would venture to say that some of them are even legitimate. I’ve scoured the shelves of Barnes & Noble, investigated every inch of my beloved community library and I’m coming up empty handed. It turns out there isn’t a book for how to meet up with your partially estranged father for a casual coffee in the middle of a suburban city neither of you know well for which one of you will be tremendously tardy (cough, not me) and you have both accidentally found yourself in the middle of a historic antique car show. It’s a damn shame, because I see a real untapped market there.
Before this day, I had not seen my father in over six months and it had been at least a year since the two of us were alone. Coffee and sports are our bonding zones and given that he was coming from a sporting event and I only had an hour and a half before work, coffee seemed like a safe call. It felt mature and so very ordinary to meet up with my father for coffee, which is precisely why it felt so unnatural. Him and I have never lived in that place. Our relationship was built on drinking from the hose, building janky skateboard ramps and duck-tape appliances, annoying my mother, and bowls of ice cream the size of our heads. The two of us sitting down for coffee in a public place surrounded by other civilized adults felt vaguely like a turtle and a grizzly bear walking through the savanna hand-in-hand. I chuckled to myself imagining the strangeness of it all as I guzzled my nitro cold brew and watched the minutes before work tick by and monopolized a table for two. Time passed, I lost the ability to hide the fact that the cold brew went straight to my head, and we looked at old cars I couldn’t care less about like we had seen each other last week. It wasn’t tragic or simple or the most revelatory, meaningful hour of my life. It just was. We joked like none of the rest of it happened.
As we turned to go our separate ways, he stopped. “Wait! I forgot I have something for you.” He dug through the back of his camper shell covered truck bed filled to the brim with god only knows and finally came up with a thick black binder. He flipped through the pages to show me charts of family trees, typed and handwritten chronicles of my genealogy, which has apparently become the hobby of my paternal grandfather’s golden years. The front of the binder displays a blurry portrait of a dozen grey-haired, wrinkly-faced souls – my paternal grandparents smack in the middle. It’s a funny thing, this binder. I don’t have the time or energy to study it, though I sense that I someday might. Furthermore, my already-filled-to-the-brim apartment is literally begging me to not bring another object over the threshold. Storing it somewhere seems packrat-esque and strange, but I certainly don’t have the heart to throw it out. So, for now, it lives on the passenger seat of my car. It feels weirdly symbolic that I let it ride around with me without feeling the need to open it or trash it.
It’s a tricky thing to make peace with things that do not make you happy, things that you never would have chosen. I suppose acceptance doesn’t require my approval. As the universe constantly reminds me, alignment with my expectations is not a prerequisite for the things in my life that will eventually bring about healing. So, for now, I’m driving around with a peaceful sense of grief, an undeniable caffeine buzz, and a binder full of old people.