when you feel forgotten at nautilus teachings

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2010-Studio- My dad forgot my birthday yesterday. It is the first sign that he is leaving me for good. It lets me know my time has come to know his truths. To stop putting him on a pedestal for which he does not deserve. I believe it is his inherent right to be applauded and slapped upon the back for being my dad because I no longer have an earthly mother. The reality of his forgetting me sends me back to the place I have known my whole life I belong:
in the soft gentle breeze
that caresses your skin
or the warm tingles
you feel when first meeting
the summer sun
I flow in and out
with the ebbing of the tide
and lie sparkling
upon the tan and cream
sandy beaches-
a treasure
to those who discover me
The prickly, poisonous demons
of my past
have now become bloated
rotting fish
swirling in a cyclone
of dirty bandages
They swiftly flow down
the elongated dirty bottom
until dumped
into the sewer
and mixed with the damaging words
thoughts and deeds of yesterday.
I am not there.
I am not smelling it
tasting it
or floating amongst it
I am riding the crest
of a new born curling wave
with my dolphin friends
and wise old Mr. hawksbill
as my guide.
Silently my father sits and waits. His eyes are tired and drawn; his skin is milky with spotty patches of tan and peach. His head hangs slightly towards his chest and his lips are parted, moist and upon his salmon tongue appear to be perched words. The man is struggling with thought, with word and he keeps tapping his fingers together in slow, stuttering movement.
“Gee, Sarah, I feel bad, I feel terrible. I can’t believe I did that. I don’t know what to say. I guess I got so busy mowing the grass and working outside that I just forgot. I feel real bad.”
His words dwindle off and he is lost in his own mind, and muttering to himself about being sorry, being sad, being worthless and not deserving to live. His plaid rumpled shirt hangs on his bony frame and is tucked neatly into his pants. His color is a flurry of monochromatic browns. His shoes are worn and look just as tired as his expression. My aging father is no longer holds any small vibrant hues, but reflects his own black and white world.
1970’s-(a memory) “Hold me higher daddy!” I scream. I am 6 and my father and I are out in the summer sun. I have a purple and white ruffles swim suit on and he has on plaid brown shorts and no t-shirt. My dad is twirling me, his strong arms stretched out as far as they can go. I am spinning faster and faster, my hair a tangled mess of giggles. My smile is as wide as my face and my freckles are popping out upon my tiny, crooked nose. “Ahhhhhh,” my dad screams and twirls me faster. The next thing I know we are both on the soft shamrock grass laughing together. “Oh Daddy, that was fun, do it again, please?”
“You wore your ole man out Sarah, enough for today sunshine.”
Mom walks towards us with some icey, cherry Kool-aide in sparkling clear glasses that are cold and moist to the touch. She is smiling through her strawberry lips and has on her matching mango colored terry cloth top and shorts. She is barefoot and I melt at the sight of her. We guzzle down the drink and both end up with red mustaches. My mom and dad sit in chairs beside each other. Their hands dangle together and I can see their fingers loosely intertwined. I lie in the grass and look for four leaf clovers. When I am tired of that I lie on my back, close my eyes and I drift off into my under the sea world.
Mr. Hawksbill is guiding me through the chilly public pool waters. I am practicing summersaults, back floats, the “tub” and other water ballet moves I am learning with my best friend. Together, each summer week day morning we set out hand in hand in our matching swim suits and towels and giggle all the way to the pool. When you first jump in the water is freezing. Together, we are twin mermaids. We are getting ready for our end of the summer show. It’s at night with a myriad of colored lights: passion pink, sunburst yellow, aquamarine and Kelly green.
Girls ages 5-15 swim to music in groups. All the people sit around the fenced area outside the pool and say things like, “wow, cool, ooooh, awwww!” They clap and smile while we pretend we are mermaids or fish or big sea turtles. It’s one of the loveliest nights of my summer. We still have a few weeks to go before this year’s show but I am ready.
2010-Studio-I sit on the floor and remember my dream from the night before. The man sits crying on the stinky mess of a sofa. His legs are boney and his head has almost no hair left. What is left is snow white and cut short. “I can’t be who you need me to be, Sarah. I can’t be that perfect father. I don’t know what to say to you. I know you wish your mom would have lived and I would have died. I can’t change it sweetheart.” His tears flow faster. My dad is sad.
The wooden 4’ x 3’ canvas is rough to the touch. I place smooth pool blue across the planking with a wide brush. I dip a smaller brush in to turquoise and cobalt blues and allow them to explode in the warm waters of the caribbean where my new turtle friend will rest. His colors are chocolate, sand, and ochre browns with small patches of leaf green. His flippers are pointing downward, as he is resting. “Kelp Snoozin’ “ is my father. Tired, worn out, with just a little bit of color left, he is ready to rest upon the soft kiwi and lime sea grasses. The soft carnation pink flowers are his pillow and the ocean current his lullaby. I love this piece because I love my father. Maybe he was not the strong hand I needed to help steer my life, but I knew he was always at the other end of the phone. I knew for the first 5 minutes of our conversation that I could hear his voice and remember his smile as he swung me round and round that bright sunny day. For even in his silence I knew he loved me.
THIS PIECE IS A QUIET REMEMBRANCE OF MY FATHER’S CORNERED SILENCE.

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