Posted by: shelliejelly | October 22, 2008

Dear K.

You prepared me well for meeting your parents, saying over and over and over again how messy your house would be, how relentless your father’s teasing. I was sitting on the front stoop with your mother and you were inside looking for some pants when your dad pulled up in his red pick-up. He looked like a member of ZZ Top, long gray beard and eyes hidden behind glasses that on anyone else might have seemed too big, an unfiltered Camel hanging from his mouth.

I was meeting him for the first time, and your mom had her poker face on, though I am pretty sure she knew what was about to happen. I don’t remember anything I was wearing that day beyond my Birkenstocks, because instead of extending a hand and saying hello, your dad stared down at my feet and asked, “Are those orthopedic?” He glanced at your mom, who admonished him with a “Dale!” that would have sounded threatening if she hadn’t been laughing. He clapped me on the shoulder as he walked past into the house, and I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. You came out the door and apologized, but I just smiled, content.

For as much as you acted as though your dad’s behavior was something to be sorry for, you had a great deal of his teasing nature in you. One evening, as we were walking along a stream that runs through the center of Kent, you stopped and pointed to a man-made fall that guided the water downward, telling me, “In the Spring it’s really great to come down here and watch all the salmon swimming up stream.”

You didn’t crack a smile and I played along, answering “Wow, that must be pretty cool.” The truth is, and perhaps you knew, I was ready to believe you. Then, you grabbed my hand and started laughing and I smiled back at you, enjoying your good-natured sense of humor, knowing nothing was done at my expense.

Later, when you told your dad this story, you and he broke out in wide smiles, comrades in the practical joke. You both laughed and laughed, drawing me in with your warmth. I always knew I wasn’t being laughed at, that I was included in not the butt of the joke.

Perhaps because of what is now happening in my life, maybe because I am on the verge of another huge loss, I conjure these memories of you and your dad and me. These recollections are comforting and restorative. I have a reference point to a time when I was truly loved.

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