Something important happened to me recently. I had a short story published. Its publication coincided with the Camelopardalids meteor shower. This is an interesting coincidence, because my story takes places around a meteor shower, a scene that was somewhat inspired by an experience with you.
In May 2000, I was in high school. These were not our best times, Dad. You and I were on rough footing, staring at one another over a sea of emotions too complicated to navigate. But despite that, you came outside one warm night and stood in the road with me. We craned back our necks and looked skyward.
Halley’s Comet gifted us a beautiful sight that night. Its interstellar debris burst into starlit streaks in the black sky. We stood side by side and watched the heavens open above us, and for a moment all was forgiven. We were just a daughter and her father, two specks of light in a vast expanse of possibility.
As I looked up, you asked if I knew what shooting stars really were. I didn’t, so you explained that shooting stars are not stars at all. They’re broken rock and debris raining down, bursting into brilliant flashes of light as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.
We bonded over this shared knowledge, and I discovered my way into your heart. I couldn’t be as confident as C or as funny as J. I could not embrace the insecurities of a life of an artist, but I could be smart. I could soak up knowledge like oxygen, and your love of academics would see that in me and, I hoped, appreciate it.
Our relationship wasn’t better right away, Dad. But it got there. We worked toward a place of understanding. We worked toward respect and forgiveness. Isn’t that the way it is? We had a choice. We could either abandon one another to the chasm that separated us in that long stretch of time, or we could fight through it, learn about one another, try to understand. And then we could accept. Only after that point did we have any chance for a future.
On the night of May 24, 2014, I went outside at 1 a.m., stood in my backyard, and once again set my gaze to the stars. But a thin film of cloud cover had rolled in while I slept, and there was nothing to be seen. I pressed my toes into the damp grass and waited patiently, but I never saw anything.
I wasn’t too disappointed, Dad. I knew that somewhere beyond the veil of clouds, the sky was alight, whether I saw it or not. Like our futures from that point in May 2000, we couldn’t know what was going to happen, but we could have faith. We could trust that even though we couldn’t see a future in which our relationship recovered, such a thing existed.
It took many years, but we found that future. We took the debris of my adolescence and morphed it into something beautiful: a relationship built on mutual respect and love. Now each time I hear of a meteor shower I think of the two of us, standing in that road with our heads back, watching discarded bits of the universe turn into something wondrous above us.