Imo stared at me from across the living room yesterday evening. Notice anything different? she asked. Anything? I shrugged, shook my head. She raised her hands in a wordless gesture of frustration. Sorry, I said. What is it now? She was not talking about her hair. Imo and I do not have that relationship. She doesn't need me to comment on her appearance. Our father-daughter dynamic is dysfunctional in a different way. Imo is a committed practical joker and I am a natural non-noticer. Or maybe non-carer is the word. You know those little things that make all the difference to life -- the favorite mug, the way the light falls on a certain ornament or corner of the room, even the daily newspaper. Somehow they don't register with me. Or rather they register, but do not matter. Their absence does not alarm or even puzzle me for a moment. So that when Imo hides a coffee mug I like (as she did once) or my alarm clock (as she has done several times) or the morning paper (yes, she did that too) I notice the absence and move casually to the adjustment phase. I take another mug, glance at a wall clock (or if that too is gone, my watch) and find a section I missed from another paper. It drives Imo crazy. I remember finding the kitchen clock in a junk drawer and assuming that my son Sam -- a light sleeper -- had put it there because the ticking was driving him crazy. I told Imo about it over the phone and she went berserk.
It was me ! she cried. I didn't know you were a light sleeper. I'm not! I hid that clock ... a month ago! How can you only notice it now? Sorry, I said. The living room looked a little different yesterday evening, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Imo shook her head sadly and pointed at the white board on the wall. What? I said. Oh, yeah. That should be in the kitchen, right? While I was at the beer store earlier, Imo had changed all the downstairs pictures around. The movie poster was in the bathroom now, the little print was over the mantel, the kid drawing of a carrot was in the kitchen, etc. A dozen things shuffled at careful random. Then she'd sat and waited for me to notice. And I hadn't. No wonder she was upset. When I think of it, I'm kind of upset too. All that effort and I didn't care enough to pay attention. Imo is working on a kind of performance art and I am yawning through it. Would you yawn through your kid's standup comedy? No you wouldn't. This is not good parenting. I must do better.
By the way, that is the original Prince Albert in a can up there. Better let him out.