#8 Get Her Out of Town

It must have been Fall of 1964, time for our High School’s Senior Ball: the beginning of the end of the high school career. For a girl who rarely had a date, that’s a dreadful time. Where we lived, there were no big hotel ballrooms or limousines. We just camouflaged the gymnasium into something grand and sparkly with kings and queens and slow dances and pretty dresses and went for early breakfasts. I had gone to the Sophomore Hop, and the Junior Prom. So it was hop, prom but no ball.

Being the ever dependable member of the decorating committee without an invitation was mortifying back then. It wasn’t discussed in our house, but my father decided to get me out of town that Saturday. I referenced our strained relationship in #6 I Hope They Smell the Pee. Near the end of her life, my aunt described what it was like growing up with Dad’s explosions. One time her beloved big brother put his fist into a plaster wall.

He eventually understood and even overcame his temper, by the time I was in High School. But damage was done and I maintained a protective space. He was rightfully admired by my friends and plenty intimidated by boys. He was a coach, a member of every possible organization and always there to help with our class events. But of course no one knew what was going on at home.

He became a teacher at my high school when he retired from the Coast Guard after a few attempts at other businesses. In fact one year my brother, father and I were at the High School at the same time. As a teacher he found a stride. He was not an academy man. He had worked his way up and was self-educated. Sadly as he learned to somewhat control his temper for my sake, the trade was ulcers.

As the Senior Ball approached and my prospective dates did not, my father arranged to take me to Seattle to a University of Washington football game the same day. I invited a friend who was also not going to the dance. I really hardly knew her, but I was uncomfortable about a day alone with my father.

Off we went in his big new all electric Buick. My friend and I sat in the back seat laughing and talking only to each other, even though it was a huge car with plenty of room up front. It was only partly teenage thoughtlessness. I always kept a distance. He got us to the massive stadium, fed us, and gave us a great day. He got us safely home that night making our return as late as possible. Again we sat in the back. I’m sure he wanted more than to spare me a sad night. He wanted a chance to begin to repair us.

I never had a truly comfortable or safe moment with my father in my life. Yet in our family, he was the only one who loved me. I thanked him politely for taking us, I was a good girl. But he died just two years after our day at the game. And I never overcame my fear of him enough, in time, to tell him I understood what he was trying so dearly to overcome.

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