I can’t remember if I told you this already. I believe that this happened in real life, and that later, after my father was dead, I dreamt it, only the dream was a nightmare—not just a terrible thing happening for real. He’d been hospitalized. I know this because I remember a story about how he had the hiccups in the hospital, which wouldn’t go away. The hiccups were getting so bad—staying so long—the story went, that the doctors and nurses were starting to worry. (Or something like that.) Anyway, the punchline is that when he came home from the hospital, the hiccups stopped. I liked this story when I was a kid, because it meant that my father was that happy to be home.
The point of my post, though, is this: that one time, when I knew that my father was coming back from the hospital, I ran up the stairs, threw the front door open, and ran outside to meet him—and he had utterly changed. He’d gone from a healthy man to an old person, sunken, stooped, and grey. I was not prepared for this; it was a terrible surprise.
This is the thing that I can’t get across—that I’m just learning about in writing you these memories of my father: I had not hardened myself yet. I had not steeled myself against pain that he might or might not inflict, or the surprise or cruelty that was possible for one person to inflict on another. I was still innocent and open to him. I don’t know what part this particular incident played in the creation of Deitch. Was it one cannonball in the side of her ship? Was it a flavor of the glue that stuck her together? Was it so bad that it made her speak of herself in the third person?