What would I do if my father died? Perhaps he already has. I do not know. But if I found out he had, what would I do?
The time to confront him, the opportunity to tell him how I felt, to let him know what I knew of him, would be gone. And yet, I do not feel a sense of loss for that. I am realizing that I have given that up a long time ago. That somehow I have already made some kind of peace within myself that has yet to be consciously acknowledged by me.
I feel no animosity, not now. Not sure when that happened. I do not even feel numbness when I think of him. There is something in its place.
Is it because creativity has filled so much of my soul as of late? Or is it just the passing of time, being so busy that I was not aware of what was happening inside of me, the transforming changes that were occurring?
What would I do if I knew my father was dead?
I would dance.
Not for him but for me and for a passion that he cut off at the knees a long time ago.
He made me quit, when I was a little girl. Despite my pleading, despite the begging and the tears that fell from my broken heart, he made me quit. One of the teachers at the dance studio had pissed him off. She was wrong. She was spiteful and mean in what she did.
She switched the girls in their places a day before the performance, terrified all of us, placed me in the back instead of in front where we had practiced all season, a spot that I had earned and been placed by the director of the studio, herself.
There was no explanation. Something about being fair? Giving the other girls a chance? I don’t know. They didn’t want it. They were as terrified as I was confused.
I got my toe shoes the quickest for being at the studio the shortest amount of time. The lead male dancer used to walk through our room and stop to watch me pirouette. He’d give me that approving nod before moving on, and my heart would grand jeté into my throat. Was that why she looked at me the way she did? I didn’t know why. I just knew she didn’t like me…a lot.
I never found out what inequity she was trying to solve by this last minute switch, and I don’t know if she ever got in trouble for the stunt she pulled, because I never went back.
He had a right to be angry, my father. But he had no right to make me quit. But he did.
To this day I remember the stage, the spot lights in my eyes, the heat of the stage. And even though I was not where I was supposed to be, I was on stage, and I was dancing and that — regardless of placement — was where I belonged.
But he ended that, and refused to let me dance with another studio. He said the career of a dancer was too hard and too short. I said I didn’t care. He said discussion over.
A part of me died until a teacher discovered my singing. And then there were solos and performances, and because he could bathe in all the compliments and there were no lessons to pay, my father let me sing. As long as I was perfect. As long as he could tell me how.
But it was something, a way for me to dance vocally. But I never danced on the floor again.
Interesting how I became involved with a man who refused to take me dancing. I wonder how much of the ghost from my past set me up for that one.
But tonight, I’m thinking about my father, which I rarely do. And I find myself wondering what I would do if I discovered that he had passed away. And I feel this kind of strange release within me, like liberation, like freedom.
When my sister died, when my mother died, when other people who were so close to me I loved them like family died, it was like a door to some part of who I am slammed shut. The end to all “remember when’s” with that person. It was a terrible loss and I mourned.
But in thinking about my father, I feel something else. I do not feel missed opportunities. I feel chains falling off. And I have to wonder what’s keeping them in place now? Whether he’s living now or living no more, why should that determine how free I am?
The first thought that came to me in response to the question, what would I do, is that I would dance. That somehow that permission to dance would be given back to me by his passing, as if he had been withholding it from me all these years, as if he still had that power.
But he doesn’t, does he?
Funny how we stay imprisoned long after the chain has rusted away, long into the years when we have grown big enough to snap the chain…like the elephant no longer a baby held in place by lessons learned from years long past.
Break free, I whisper into her big flappy ear. You have the strength. It’s only your belief that holds you in place.
I wonder…I wonder how much it would cost to lay a dance floor in the studio I am moving into? So we can dance, the elephant and I, for ourselves, in the privacy of our room, under spotlights that shine for no one but us and with the heat of our unbridled passion, more majestic and wonder filled than all the performances of Swan Lake.
We would dance, the elephant and I, so graceful the tears would wash over us like silk, like dancers’ scarves, like wings. We would dance, like the child I was, alone in her living room, not for glory but for pure art and pure joy.
And no one would stop us.