When I was twelve, my father blacked out at the nearby Strawberry recreation pool and slipped on its deck, split his elbow open, blood everywhere. I don’t know how he made it home. The next morning, he sat outside on our patio, remorseful and bloated, with a huge white gauze bandage around his punctured elbow.
“I’m sorry,” he said without looking me in the face. I hated him.
A few days later, I was back at the pool, and dove into the deep end when a lady loudly stage whispered to her friend, “There goes the drunk man’s daughter.” I hit the water and went down, down down.
I was beyond mortified to be Jack Brown’s daughter. I could not go back to the pool ever again, and cried walking home.
My daddy was sober in his bedroom when I got back, packing an open suitcase.
“Where are you going?” Not looking up, he leaned with both arms on their white chenille tassled bedspread.
“I have a problem, and I’m going to Napa State Hospital for awhile.” My dad, puffy, small and defeated, not dashing. Confused, I felt a blend of despair, rage and relief, without a name.
“Are you coming back?”
“I don’t know when. It’ll be awhile.”
A couple of days after he left, my mother went to her Tonsu dresser and took out an essay my father wrote while attending Tokyo University. He wrote about his destroyed career in Washington D.C., and I opened my heart just a little.
My daddy also wrote me a letter on his portable Royal typewriter while he was in Napa.
My Darling Prusie:
Today you made Daddy so very happy with the lovely box of Valentine Candy. In fact it was so good Daddy ate the whole box up right away. I haven’t had any candy for a long time and your present sure hit the spot.
How are all your little friends in Bel Aire? How is school? How is Brian? How are the cats? All doing well I hope. I certainly miss you and your face is before me many times during the day. I hope you realize that I love you and Brian very, very much.
I am feeling better and hope to be home with you all very soon. Give Grandma and Brian some great big kisses on my behalf. Tell Grandma that I started to read “Behind that Curtain” by Earl Derr Biggers… that the scene is laid in San Francisco.
Love to the most wonderful daughter in the whole wide world.