Nobody wanted to admit the ship was sinking. The walls were all streaked, and about half the ceiling had long since fallen. In mid-September, when the heavy rains came, we found ourselves outnumbered by the leaks. We ran out of buckets and had to use mixing bowls, Tupperware, and large drinking cups to catch the water. Sometimes, it sounded like a song.
One afternoon after the rain had stopped, I found Dad leaning up against the dryer door, holding it closed with his knee while it ran. He rested his hands on the top of the dryer and lowered his head. His neck was red, like it used to be in the summer. I kneaded his upper back and he winced. That was his way of letting me know it was good. The more pain he appeared to be in, the better I was doing.
That morning, Mom had gotten a call back on a small, two-family home we'd inquired about a few miles down the road. It had three bedrooms and was only six-fifty a month. I wanted to tell Dad, but I didn't. He'd gotten angry that I was looking at houses and said he didn't understand why we had to do this. If the house didn't sell at auction, we'd be able to stay. They wouldn't be able to kick us out. We could simply not leave.
That was his way. He forgot about problems until they were unforgettable, and then he'd just deny, ignore, or rationalize. He couldn't afford a new roof, but he couldn't afford the house either, so why waste the little money he had on something that was just going to get taken away? Why pay to fix the dryer when he had a perfectly good knee?
As I stood there with my hands on his back, I could feel the dryer's chaotic rhythm passing through his body like a tremor. The machine's inner drum had warped. He tensed under my grip and said, I swear, if I were a coward, I'd have killed myself already.
Notes from the Author
I'm fascinated with what seems like the mundane. I used to coach baseball, and I would tell my players—when watching professional athletes—not to pay attention to the flashy things, the things that stand out. Pay attention to the boring things, the things that every player does, the dull-as-dishwater things. You do that, and you can learn a great deal. You begin to see that the dishwater isn't so dull. I believe this applies to experience in general. You can learn so much just by paying attention.