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my father never apologized for anything
not for missing weekends with me
not for forgetting my birthday or my age
not for missing anything related to my education
including graduations

I could tell he felt weak whenever he was wrong
his response was to light a Newport and never admit it
I found myself becoming the same way
so I excavate the possibilities
push the apologies out of my mouth
even if I’m not entirely sure I’m wrong
I’ve learned people are like variations of Spades
can’t expect them to play by your rules
his rules for himself were few
then there were the rules for everyone else
—the man of the house
does what the man wants
and everybody should nod and smile

now I look at him with pity
tell myself that everybody has their own
beliefs and rules that govern their reality
rarely will they ever match up with mine
when someone does something reproachable
I think of how my James would respond—
either by cutting them out of his life
or flipping out on them—and I remember
that he doesn’t have many friends, family, or a son
and the friends he has are
works of art with just as much personality

he never gave me reliability, compassion, hope
but he did show me how valuable it is
to be able to give them to others
when Father’s Day rolls around
it won’t be a theatrical performance, dinner, or an outing
there certainly won’t be any Hallmark moments
but there will be a phone call

so I excavate