One of my earliest memories of secrets was with my father. Growing up, I saw him as a very mysterious and strict man. He had many rules for us. We could only play from 4 to 6. By 7, we should be bathed and ready for supper. We could never leave a speck of food on our plates. If we broke any of these rules, we would surely get the bitter end of his black leather belt.
Of all my father’s rules, the strictest was bedtime at 9 o’clock. This story is about the time I broke that particular rule. It was the night that I had a little too much soda and the caffeine just wouldn’t let me sleep. I snuck out of my bedroom and went to the living room to play video games. At around midnight, my father opened the door and found me on the couch wide-awake. He totally wigged out. I got the beating of my life and was sent to bed wounded and in tears.
You’d think that that would keep me from staying up but I was a pretty curious kid. I wanted to know why my father was awake. I could see from the little space beneath my bedroom door that the dining room light was still on. I opened the door a little and I could see my dad. I wondered what he was doing.
Upon closer inspection, I saw that he was swinging his hips. Was he dancing? What was he dancing? I had questions. So many questions. Why was he dancing? Was he joining a contest? Was my father a good dancer? I wanted to know. Dammit, I really wanted to know. When the curiosity was so intense I felt it would overflow, I mustered up enough courage to open the door.
It was then that I discovered my father’s secret. He wasn’t dancing the flamenco or the tango. He was practicing his golf swing.
There are some things you should know about my father. He grew up in a farm; the youngest of a large, primarily male family. Although the land was theirs, it seems there was never enough of anything for his entire family. Like most parents, he wanted his children to have the life he never had. He left the province to work in the big city and swore he would never return. He found a woman with a similar view to raise a family with. Together, they worked hard to raise my sisters and me. They’ve kept their promises. Growing up, we always had enough of the basics: food, clothing, shelter and love. (A little too much love if you ask me. We were a little socially retarded from the lack of interaction with people outside the family.)
Now because my father had spent most of his life making semi-riches out of rags, he did not have the same interests or skill sets as the men his age. To put it simply, he couldn’t afford any hobbies. I suddenly recalled a conversation he had with my mother when we were driving to church. A friend had invited my father to play golf in some posh country club. He tried to play it down, adding a scoff here and a few off-topic remarks there but I could still tell that he wanted to go. My mom told him to turn the offer down. We were barely getting by and a sport like golf would cost a lot of money. “Stick to what you know,” she told him and that was the end of that- or so we thought.
Suddenly, it all made sense- the weekend “meetings”, the late night practices. No wonder he was so cross when he caught me playing Mario! I interrupted his private tee time. He was trying to catch up with men who grew up affluently- who were able to master golf at an early age. My father didn’t have that same privilege and if he wanted to play with them, he had a lot of catching up to do.
I carried my father’s secret. I understood his reasons. That night, I saw my father’s human side- the one he hides from the family he kills himself for. Who was I to deny him of this outlet? Undetected, I went back to my room and never told a soul.
What would my father do if he learned my secrets? Sometimes, I imagine life would be better if nothing was kept in the dark. Although I keep most of them for our mutual protection, there are moments (like right now) where I wonder if he would accept me, his only son, for who I really am. I suppose some secrets are darker than others. The only similarity is that they are all in the dark. I understood you, father. Will you understand me? I saw your reasons and I loved you for them. Do you think you could find it in your heart to accept mine?
In saner moments, I realize that such questions are pointless. Some riddles don’t have answers. I have learned to never question. There are things you just accept.
Photo Credit: MHA
Pieces of You