Pa lives eight kilometers from my house.Â It’s an easy drive distance-wise, but a hard one knowing what I’ll find at the end of the journey.
Pa doesn’t use his front door so I slip around the side to the sliding glass patio doorâ€”another tormentor to remind me of how I look.
I slide open the door.Â “Pa?Â It’s me,” I call.
“Right here,” he mumbles and stirs in his recliner chair.
“Did I wake you up?Â I’m sorry,” I say.
“I dozed off just now” he claims.Â There’s a crossword puzzle a pencil on his lap.Â “How’s my girl?” he asks as I lean down to give him a hug and a peck on the cheek.
Pa is the most constant thing in my life, a sweet man with a fiery Scottish temper when aroused, which wasn’t often.Â Though only 54, he looks a decade older from the trauma of fightingâ€”and beatingâ€”cancer.Â His body was still emaciated, though.
“What brings you by?” Pa asks with his warm smile.
“Can’t a girl visit her pa for no reason but that she loves him?” I tease.
Pa studies my face and I know I can’t hide this most recent hurt from him.Â “Come on, now.Â Tell me what’s wrong.Â There’s no use holding it in, you know.”
I ease down onto the old sofa, its springs groaning in protest under my weight.
“Well?Â Get on with it,” he orders kindly.
I burst into tears.Â “Oh Pa!”Â I sob.Â “Tiresa and Mika are getting married.Â I found out through Mama Rose, who wants me to go to the engagement party and the wedding just because they’re family.Â It’s not fair.Â Why doesn’t anyone take my side?Â Mika abandons me and Abe and Fi and Tiresa stabs me in the back, but I’m expected to be nice and act like nothing’s wrong!”Â I bury my face in my hands and let the tears flow.
Pa rises form his chair and comes over to wrap his arms around me.Â Emaciated as they are, they are the strongest arms in the world to me.
“What did I do to deserve this?Â I quit school to marry him.Â I stayed at home to take care of the house and the kids, but I still wasn’t good enough.Â Tiresa swoops in and steals my husband and now she’s trying to steal my kids and be their stepmum.Â Soon Abe and Fi won’t like me and won’t want to see anymore.Â They can give them toys and games and everything while I have to scrimp and save for months to buy things.Â She did it on purpose.Â She did it because she’s a mean, spiteful komo mai tainga!”Â I didn’t know much of the Samoan language, but I did know the curse words.Â “Oh, Pa, why does this happen to me?”
I continue to cry while Pa holds me, patting my back and murmuring something soothing yet unintelligible.Â Finally the tears subside.Â Pa hands me a tissue from the box on the side table.Â I blow my nose and wipe my eyes as he sits there, smiling.
“Dearest Bella, you are a wonderful daughter, a wonderful woman and a wonderful mother.Â I don’t know why Mika left you and I don’t know why your sister did what she did.Â She’s hurting, too, you know.Â Ripped from her family at such a tender age . . . no wonder she’s untrusting.”
“Because she’s untrustworthy,” I say bitterly.
Pa sighs.Â “But it’s done and there’s no going back.Â Life is like this sometimes.”
I wasn’t certain if he was referring to Tiresa’s betrayal of me or her being taken away.Â “But life is always like this for me,” I grumble.Â “It’s not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair,” Pa continues.Â “Is it fair that your mother died?Â Is it fair her family took Tiresa away?Â Is it fair that I have cancer or that people lose their jobs and homes or that earthquakes happen?Â No, no, no, no and no.Â So it’s up to you to make it work even when it’s not fair.Â Life is what you make it.Â You don’t have to be a suffering single mother.Â You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last.Â Make your life count and enjoy it and soon someone will come along and love you more than Mika ever did.”
“How?” I ask, tears welling up again.Â “I don’t know how.”
Pa moves back to his recliner.Â “Now I’ve made you tired, Pa.Â I’m sorry.Â Is there anything I can get for you?Â Let me make you a cup of tea.”
“That would be lovely,” Pa smiles and attempts to adjust the pillow behind him.Â I get up, sofa springs groaning again, and fluff the pillow for him.Â “Thank you,” he says and takes my hand.Â “You do so much for others.Â Make sure you take care of yourself.Â Make your life count by taking charge.Â Don’t let life run you.Â YOU run it.”
“Of course, Pa, you’re right,” I sniffle and smile and give him a hug.Â Easier said than done, I think, but to please Pa, it’s easier to pretend I agree.
Pa picks up the crossword puzzle and pencil.Â “And don’t worry about finding the right man.Â He’s out there.Â And not just any old schmuck.Â You need someone who sees that your river runs so deep that he can’t help falling in.”
I make him a cup of tea and a sandwich and serve them on a tray.Â “I have to go now.Â Tiresa’s arriving soon to pick up the kids.”
“Send her my love,” Pa says.
“I will, Pa,” I reply.Â But it’s a lie.Â I have no intention of telling Tiresa what he says.Â She abandoned him and stole my life and doesn’t deserve love or trust.