I opened the gate at four-thirty in the morning so my father didn’t have to waste time and energy getting out of his truck.
“Morning, daddy,” I said as he guided his truck and trailer through the gate.
He waited for me to close the iron doors and hop into the front seat. The headlamp was on, revealing empty cups of gas station coffee and snack wrappers. As he drove around to the front of our house, I picked up the garbage.
“Don’t tell your mom, he whispered, pinching my cheek.
“Okay,” I smiled and stared into his bloodshot eyes.
Once inside he collapsed in his usual spot, a plaid recliner in the corner. He eased his feet out of a pair of brown, steal work boots, and then leaned back, letting out a long, exhausted sigh.
“Do you need anything, daddy?”
“Hmmm…no, Charlotte. I’m going to take a little nap.”
I lay on the sofa watching him sleep. His face drooped, the skin melting into his neck. Sweat beads formed on his wide forehead as his belly rose and fell. His veiny hands rested against dirty Wrangler jeans. I remembered an earlier time, before he took over the family business, when he lived at home, not on the road, when his day started with ours and he left work early to watch me play softball. I remembered his hand tight around mine as the rollercoaster raced towards the ground and then up again. I remembered his face happy, his eyes alive.
His snores paused and then started, this time louder. I sat up, pulling my knees to my chest. I remembered his promise of a handmade swing set, the cookies we were supposed to bake, movie nights his chair stayed empty. I remembered his advice shared during his week-long hauls, on overnights in eerie motels. I remembered barbeques and birthday parties we went to, the standing promise to bring him a plate that would sit in the refrigerator for days, its bottom soggy, its contents growing mold. I remembered when I took for granted the time I had with my daddy, the way life disguised itself as never-ending.