True Colors

I can’t believe how corny this is, but I just listened to True Colors by Cindy Lauper a bunch of times in a row.  There’s life just being life really, the things of loving and working and sleeplessness and school, but it’s just that it’s the end of a day where I worked 12 hours to turn in my big paper.  I just miss my dad.

Fuck, I miss my dad.  I miss the way he loved Cindy Lauper.  He loved her so much.  Here he was, this 40 year old Dad and he was just so tickled by a song my friends and I listened to.  He’d laugh and smile and smack his leg.  “Oh man!  Look at that Holly!  Look look look! Is that a chandelier on her head?”.  It’s funny to watch the video again.  He just got such a kick out of her.  But her song said something too.
You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
Its hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
Sometimes you just need home.  Sometimes you get lost and your cheeks hurt from salt and you are so bone wearyingly tired.  I end up longing for memories of a grandmother I didn’t have.  I miss my dad, playing guitar and singing like Bob Dylan, only somehow more screechy.  I miss my dad playing Cindy Lauper’s records and the way he was sad and comforted by her song. I think when you loose someone it’s just that time wears off the edges of the thing so it cuts less, but every now and then you find a burr.  I miss him like it was yesterday.  And everyone misses the people that they lost in this unique and lonely way.

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
You are good enough and strong enough and pretty enough.  Your messy emotions are fine, c’mere.  I don’t think anybody really had a home like that, but I was raised on a lot of T.V.  I can imagine it.  All those lovely things I saw in all the windows with all the families.  “You’re perfect, exactly as you are”. “I love you, forever”. Perfect words in indelible ink.  Nobody is left behind and nobody dies alone and Lassie never goes away, and Dad always comes home because it’s a wonderful life.
Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy, can’t remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there
And I’ll see your true colors
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

But real love is like that.  It’s messy and fleeting and lasting.  My father will never really be gone and I am loved from the top of my head to the tip of my toe and through and through.  He was not a perfect man or a perfect father, and I loved him exactly as he was.  I came to understand him and accept him.  I got him.  And I never left.  I loved him with every fiber, my imperfect father.  My cautious heart is like that.  It’s a tenacious heart too.


I read his last letter to me too.

“Dear Holly,

My friend Terry was a handyman and out of work, so he volunteered to do some needed repairs to an AA clubhouse.  One night after working hard putting up drywall for free, he left the second story clubhouse.  On his way down the two flights of stairs two men jumped him.  They say he put up a hell of a fight but they bludgeoned him to death, murdering him for the $14 he carried. I knew him since we were babies and lived in the same poor housing projects.

More than 20 years ago I was in love with a woman named Joan. Last year she fell down in her own home and just died. I miss her and often notice a tear in my eyes when I think of her. We were friends after we parted ways and I love her still. She was always on my side, no matter what; she ALWAYS defended my position and took my side on whatever was the issue. If a man can have a friend like her even once in a lifetime he is indeed fortunate.

I think it’s a characteristic of being fifty something that I reflect every day about experiences of life. Oh I do not fear death like most people I know, I hope and plan to be here and enjoy life all I can. I am basically very happy and at peace these days but realize that life is fragile and very short. I recently heard that the population of our planet is about five billion (500,000,000,000} people. None of us will be here in just a hundred years, perhaps a handful but not many.

My home in Mentor is for sale now. When it sells I plan to ride a motorcycle across Europe, climb a mountain, join an archeological dig to uncover some lost city, and watch the Sun set every day. Sunsets are cool, an unbelievable new one every day, no two alike. The colors, hues and inevitable disappearance below the horizon mesmerize me and I can’t help but to feel a sense of serenity and tranquility when I find time to watch one.

This month I am the feature artiest at the Enclave coffee house in downtown Willoughby, Ohio. I like my art and have won 1st place in a few art shows now. I have lately been doing all contemporary pictures in Abstract Expressionism. I paint the way I feel at the moment and really don’t know what I will get until I am finished with the painting. It’s such fun, just like finger-painting when I was in kindergarten. Funny, I can remember exactly how I felt then and can see my classmates; not an illusion but a vivid remembrance of how it was. I mostly remember wonderful times along with a few painful moments like being shunned or laughed at because I was born with a handicap right arm and hand. I had one of my fingers amputated from frostbite when I was about 5 years old. I remember my mother visiting me in the hospital and reading to me from comic books. Donald Duck was my favorite.

I miss my daughter.  I remember carrying her on my shoulders when she was about 5 years old and I took her with me on a hike where we saw a deer so close that I could see our reflection deep within  the doe’s dark eyes. She stomped her foot and stared at us as if to say, “I can’t see you, but I know you’re there.” I froze motionless, and held my daughter on my shoulders and neither of us made a noise. I also remember that I favored whatever girlfriend I had at the time without regard for her. I wish I could do it all over again. I think we have to wreck a few children before we get the hang of it………… Perhaps being a grand parent will redeem me in some sort of way.

I love you!

Tommy……. Papason

P.S. write back soon, write often, call when you can”


He signed every letter he ever wrote to me with both his name and the name I called him.  Often he signed with his last name too.  We told each other that deer story over and over, remembering our different parts.  I remember I was on his back because the ground was marshy and the water kept seeping out and our feet sinking in a little, and the water kept pouring in my little girl boots, so he’d picked me up to ride his back.

I think of my father’s friend Joan with this song too, the person that always has your back, no matter what.  I suppose it seems foolish to love like that, and I know I always fear it, being the big dumb dog who loves beyond reason.  But I told you.  My heart is tenacious.  My love for my father may be bigger now that he’s dead.  He isn’t here to contradict it and it goes on unchecked.

I remember reading this letter and thinking that we’d never really talked about his missing hand.  I didn’t really realize it was a thing until middle school when I had friends from other neighborhoods who hadn’t grown up with my father like I had.  It seemed so silly that they thought he was handicapped.  He rode bull in the rodeo for Christ’s sake. He built and rode motorcycles.

He always had those crazy ideas.  I think I’ll become an artist.  I think I’ll learn to ride a motorcycle. I think I’ll climb a mountain and ride a bull and be a stand up comic and learn to play guitar.  I think I’ll ski and climb and write and do all the things, he said.  And the funny thing was, he did them all. (He didn’t uncover a lost city).

It’s the secret thing I actually love the most about me, and it’s 3 am, so I’ll share it.  I am my father’s daughter, with his same silly old tenacious heart and that wide curiousity.  Fuck being the big dumb dog and women who are difficult to love.  I am my father’s daughter, and I love him wider and wider still.



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