So much happened
the day I found out my dad was neither a businessman nor boss.
Already a grandfather with hair more gray than black,
he’d developed a new interest in dancing
and no longer polished his shoes for an office job only.
Newly employed at the dullest place in the university,
the Center of Budget and Planning,
he was without nameplate or swivel chair
when he looked up from a copier’s lightning flash to greet me.
A smear of white medicine encircled his mouth
like the makeup on some circus performer.
In disbelief, the eyes of a smirking co-worker followed us out the door —
before my father marked his territory
by lighting a cigarette and stinking up the building’s once smoke-free lobby.

The trees were so bare
squirrel nests could be seen among the branches,
and fallen leaves surrounded the sidewalk in a confusion of colors.
Shuffling out into a cloudburst that fell like acorns,
my father popped open his grandson’s tiny umbrella
with pictures of Mickey Mouse and a glitter-covered handle.
Was this man really my father —
and, if he was, what did that make me:
a clown’s daughter?
Having sidestepped a former classmate as we paraded to the cafeteria,
I was now force-fed moves to the cha-cha and fox trot
while waiting in line for a bowl of chili.
I kept stumbling on the fact that the office Dad had shown Mom
must have been someone else’s, not his own.
How could he have explained the pictures of a strange family on his desk
or the newly earned diplomas on the wall?
I never asked him.

After learning what I did that day,
I’d soon be leaving to study poetry at a graduate school
deep in the heart of the country;
but on that awkward October afternoon, so long ago,
standing with my father outside the cafeteria,
I saw daylight drowning in thunder.
Stunned, it never occurred to me
to walk with him back to his cubicle —
to offer him my umbrella,
to hug him goodbye, or even to lie
and tell him I had fun —
the day I found out my dad was neither a businessman nor boss.