There was no wiggle room with my dad. When I was a kid, if my chores were left undone, if my bed was not made just so, if I was late for anything or if there was a grade below A on my report card, punishment was swift and sure.
More than any other memory I have of my dad is that he scared the bejesus out of me. He made it a habit to ask why I had committed any given transgression and it enraged him when I gave my honest, little girl answer, “I don't know.”
I also didn't always know a rule existed until I had broken it and all of this made my father a feared and fearsome presence in my life every day.
I am telling you this not to create a debate about my father's parenting skills (or lack thereof) but to set the stage for one of his rare indulgences, one that I am taking advantage of today and, possibly, tomorrow and beyond.
Among the known requirements of my young life was to attend school each day no matter what. Aside from communicable diseases, nothing merited missing school and when I had the sniffles, I was handed a pack Kleenex and sent on my way.
Until one day when I didn't feel like getting out of bed. I knew I wasn't sick but it just felt good that morning to loll around under the warm covers. Of course, Dad arrived in my room blustering around and demanding to know why I wasn't dressed and at the breakfast table.
Expecting his wrath at catching me in a lie, I told him I didn't feel well. But lo – instead of a rant, he said I'd better stay home from school then. I was amazed and shocked at my good fortune.
This happened when I was in fifth grade, taught by a man named Mr. Katagiri who was a friend of my dad's. The next day, my father supplied the written note I needed and I snuck a peek at it on my way to school. What would be his reason for my absence?
Dear George,” it began. “Please excuse Ronni from classes yesterday. She had a bad case of the crud and I gave her a day off.”
That may not be what he wrote word-for-word but it is damned close – it's hard to forget the circumstances surrounding a privilege so rare that something similar happened only two or three other times while I was growing up.
About two weeks ago, I was down for three days or so with some kind of unnameable illness and I have not been right since then. Details aren't important. It is enough to know that I'm dragging myself around from wake-up time to bedtime with a feeling of general malaise so that everything from feeding the cat to writing a blog post feels like climbing Mt. Everest.
It's kind of like my fifth-grade crud except that it's lasting longer which might be due to my being six decades older.
The important part and the reason for this all-too-long intro is to explain that I have decided to give myself the same kind of dispensation from blog and other work that my dad so surprisingly gave me that day 60-odd years ago.
Maybe it came to me to do this because tomorrow, Friday, will be the 32nd anniversary of his death. Please don't judge him harshly for what I explained above. I don't.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: My Famous Story