After Dinner Banjo by J.R. Rivero Kinsey

SERIES: Part 15

Sparse notes, plucked softly from the strings of a banjo, sound from the living room. The notes my father plays are nothing I recognize; the melody sounds classical, different from the traditional songs I know he usually plays on the guitar and fiddle. As I listen, it occurs to me I have what I’ve always wanted. Not only a father, but one I can play music with. I love traditional music, especially Appalachian, Scottish, and Irish. I had friends whose families were immersed in it; they all played together and I envied them.

I finish unpacking my small suitcase, placing a few utilitarian items among the old family photos on top of the dresser, then make my way to the living room. In the soft lamp light, surrounded by night blackened windows, my father continues playing as I settle in to listen. His hands aren’t small, nor are his fingers delicate, but their movement over the strings is graceful and effortless. He plays a little longer. I am his enamored audience, feet tucked under me on the squishy blue couch like a child. When he sets the banjo aside, we talk for a while, and I work up courage for a question I’ve been nervous to ask.

“I don’t know what to call you,” I say. “I don’t know if it’s OK, but I’d like to call you ‘Dad’. That’s what you feel like to me.”

Facing me on the couch, his chest swells with emotion as his hand reaches up over his heart. His eyes twinkle with acceptance and delight. I’m relieved at his response, but I’m also worried about my step-sisters, whom I’ve not yet met. He raised them. How will they react to me? My father opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Sarah and Carolyn. What do they call you?”

My father smiles. “They call me Scott”.

It feels so natural to be with him, converse with him. Though I still feel a little nervous, a bigger part of me feels like I’ve always known him, carried him in my blood like a shadow that has now taken on flesh. Every once in a while I look at him and think to myself, Wow, this is my real, actual, father! But I’m looking for some inner sense of amazement that is not there. Instead, I feel only comfort and familiarity. The way he is, matches the way I am. Talking to him, I know his heart is like mine but not in a way anyone who knows me would recognize. My father is kind and warm, his heart out in the open for anyone to see. I have been described as aloof and hard to read. Most of my life, I’ve guarded my heart with an iron hard armor, but right now, it’s bared completely.

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