Life, lately, has been a little bit unkind. An old friend’s father suffered a stroke last week. The news has me thinking of my own father’s cancer, diagnosed early last year. I suppose this is the problem with your 30’s. All around you, the giants of your life begin to tumble.
My father’s cancer is not life threatening, at least not to my knowledge, but my experience of his struggle is complicated by our broken relationship, my lack of willingness to engage with a man that I love and fear in equal measure. He is my wolf in sheep’s clothing. I never know whether to expect the sharp tooth of his anger or the warm comfort of his intelligence and love.
My favorite memories are silly ones, when the teeth were concealed and the danger felt far away. My father rose early, always. Six a.m. brought the sound of the coffee grinder and tinny classic rock from an old clock radio that sat on the shelf just above his pillow. On weekends he made pancakes, as round and wide as the cast iron skillet. Sometimes bacon, chewy from the microwave, but still delicious, especially coated in syrup and washed down with milk.
My brother was not the early riser we were and my father delighted in teasing him for the zombie state in which he left his bed every morning, light brown hair tufted, gray-blue eyes still crusted with sleep.
One weekend morning my father rose with the usual cacophony of dark roast and Zeppelin. He served up my brother’s pancake, again as usual, on a dinner plate with the Aunt Jemima and a tub of margarine, a paper towel set off to the side to reign in the sticky mess. But instead of the small salad fork I was proffered, he handed my brother our largest serving fork, the one I only saw at Thanksgiving, three-pronged and wide as my brother’s young palm.
I paused in my eating and looked up to my father. He pulled his right index finger silently over his lips: shhh. My brother, so groggy his sleep shirt was still set askance picked up the fork and frowned, “How come I have to use such a big fork?” Without missing a beat, my father, all matter-of-fact seriousness, “The fork isn’t big, you’re just holding it too close to your face.” My brother frowned again, shifted the fork to arm’s length, nodded, seemed to decide this was, as my father had indicated, normal and correct, and began struggling to eat a pancake with a fork he almost could not fit in his mouth, confused as to why my father and I couldn’t stop laughing.
I think about that morning on the rare moons I decide to make myself pancakes, at dinner parties when a friend pulls out a serving fork. I wish all my memories of my father could be like this. I wish I could trust that this was his true self, toothless and silly.
But, at least for now, this is what I have. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A broken relationship and memories. A strong love that I hope absolves me of the decisions I have made in my fear.
Want to crochet your own amigurumi wolf? I have opted to provide this pattern for free here on my blog.