When I was nine or ten years old, I overheard my mother tell my father that he should stop favoring me so much or the other kids would get jealous. I was the youngest of four and I knew, for sure, that he loved me. I was pretty awesome then. I was kind. I was free and open. I was me. I was his sous-chef. I was his favorite.
I must have hidden in corners a lot and listened to my parents because there was another time when I overheard them discuss my artistic abilities. My father mentioned how I may be gifted as an artist. My mother scoffed, saying that if I was a true artist I would be able to draw pictures with much more realistic detail than I was doing at the time.
I was eleven years old and dabbling with oil paints. Art was my thing. It was what I did and loved. My teachers praised me, which reinforced my passion. I was crushed by her words. The memory of it makes me tear up, to this day. She didn't say it with spite. She didn't mean it for my ears. My mother was kind and nurturing. She would never consciously use words that would be emotionally hurtful. It was not in her nature. But this was her truth. And my shame.
That evening, I stormed to my room, angry and devastated by my mediocrity. I drew a picture of my father as I saw him in my mind, with more detail than the artist in me usually allowed. I even drew the stubble on his face. I secretly dropped the picture on my parents' bed and fled, not brave enough for a confrontation. I waited (stalked) until they found it and all I remember is the condescending adoration of my parents, saying how cute this was. Cute. There was no redemption. There was no, "See, she IS brilliant after all!"
I gave up on art that day.
Later in my life, I found words and their perfect combination in poetry and prose. This replaced the visual arts and became my voice.
My father always supported me in my artistic dreams. He believed in me. Despite all of our differences he had faith in me. Even when I sucked as an artist, he supported me. He embraced the spark, even if it was dim and not yet actualized. When I talked to him on the phone, as an adult, he always asked me about what I had written. When I said "not much", he encouraged me to find the time, to find my truth.
And now that he's gone, I want to find it even more.