My Sister - Juliana Hatfield (mp3)
Her elbow barely made it over the metal bar, the dividing gate the separated us from the talent, as they say. Her heels were just a smidgen off the ground. She had to be on her tippy-toes, but just enough to be annoying, as if begging God to just let her grow another half inch right now already.
Although maybe six feet from the corner of the stage, my girls were just barely tall enough and unobstructed by others enough to be able to enjoy what was happening on stage. An hour or so in, one of the women in front of us looked at my younger, shorter daughter and offered her a spot at the barrier. She was handed prime real estate.
She’s her mother’s daughter, however, so not even an unobstructed view of a platinum-selling pop star at the top of her game could distract her from the fact that (a) she was sweating hot and (b) it was almost 10 p.m.
“Is it going to be hot?” my younger daughter had asked on our way there.
“I don’t know. Probably. Probably it’ll get a little warm.”
“Warm, or hot?”
“Well, not hot like it gets out on the soccer field,” I said. “But it could get a little stuffy in there if there’s a big enough crowd.”
“How loud is it gonna be?” she asked.
“I dunno,” I said. “Concert loud. But not, like, Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’ loud.”
“Neverm-- it just won’t be that loud as concerts go.”
I’d taken her and her older sister to a couple of concerts before, but they were much larger venues, places with seat numbers. This would be their first All Ages show, the kind of event exclusive to smaller venues like the now-Big Deal Track29 in Chattanooga.
By the time the adorable and sassy-as-hell Sara Bareilles took the stage, my second child had given me many dagger-edged looks and yelled into my ears several times that yes, it was hot, and yes, it was loud. Which is to say, her father had lied twice. I just shrugged and said, “But I love you!”
When we first arrived, I took a picture of the two of them and posted it on Facebook, excited about our father-daughter adventure. All these friends commented things like, “You’re such a cool dad!” But the truth that my real-life friends know is that I didn’t really do it for them. I did it for me, desperately hoping they would enjoy it enough so they might think I did it for all of us.
This isn’t a statement of bitterness, because I don’t often recall, during my teenager years, feeling that there was some gaping chasm of loss created from this situation. Father-son trips weren’t his thing, and had he tried it, the whole experience would have had that sheen of requirement and expectation rather than desire.
My dad never really knew me.
Not in the way that none of of never really know anyone, maybe not even ourselves, but in the way many kids from my and previous generations grew up with fathers who, while living in the same house, saw little of us and did almost nothing with us outside of dinners and watching TV shows.
I’m not bitter. Really, I’m not. I loved my dad a ton, but the moat of what we didn’t know or understand about one another was definitely a part of our relationship. If I’m being honest with myself, maybe it’s the other way around, and I mostly wish I’d known my father better.
Maybe moments like these will also shrink the moat that most certainly grows between sisters. But my real motive is wanting my soon-to-be teenage girls to know me better than I knew him. So, like I said. I’m not some cool, hip dad. I’m just being selfish.