a driving kind of beautiful…

September 19, 2009

My dad and I were driving one day. Well, he was driving; I was 7. Maybe 8. Down Roosevelt Blvd we went, past Yerkes Park; I’d seen it 10,000 times.

Seemingly out of nowhere – breaking the discomfort of the silence – he said “you’re beautiful.”

Um….ok

I had never thought or worried about being beautiful. I don’t think I even realized people were judged on things like that.  Who knows why it stuck.

All I knew was that now, this thing called beautiful was important and whatever it was, it apparently made me remarkable.  This intangible quality was the grounds upon which I was worth engaging.

He had never said how easily I mastered any sport I tried.  He never spoke of how my abstract mind was a unique gift that gave me a special kind of intelligence and wit.  He never brought up that I was funny or made known how I could light up a room.  He never broke the silence by saying I had an uncanny ability to make people feel welcomed and included.

No, I’d learn all of those things later, in relationships with friends, boyfriends, pseudo-fathers, and pastors.  It would be all of those men who noticed, revealed, protected, and encouraged those things in me.

But on that day, the distance was bridged with ‘beautiful’ – and then the silence set in again.

Fast-forward 20 years.

That scene flashed across my mind today as my dad sat in the passenger seat of my quintessential white BMW.  A short strapless linen dress, designer of course,  hung delicately on my thin frame.  My perfectly straight short blonde hair outlined painted eyes, white, straight teeth and flawless skin.

We chatted awkwardly.  He doesn’t know me.  He never did.  He never wanted to.  He asks about work. He asks about school. I graciously answer.  Conversations are as they have always been – more a polite dialog than an endearing exchange.

But today, I was driving because he is now blind…

I wonder what he sees.