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Diana Whitney lives in Southern Vermont, where she writes across the genres with a focus on sexuality, parenting, and feminism. Her first book, WANTING IT, became an indie bestseller in 2014 and won the Rubery Book Award in poetry. She’s the poetry critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and her essays have appeared in Glamour, The Washington Post, Salon, Ms. Magazine, and many more. When she’s not teaching yoga, she’s finishing a memoir about motherhood and sexuality. Find out more at www.diana-whitney.com

My Father’s Adventure Was My Terror

Diana Whitney | Longreads | June 2017 | 8 minutes (2,009 words)

 

Afterward, I wondered whether my father understood there was danger at the Afghan border. He thrived on adventure, had joined the Merchant Marine at age 16 and later driven his blue Alfa Romeo across Europe and a battered VW bus through the Serengeti. He was famous for making ill-considered decisions and delighted in emerging untouched from disaster. When I was a baby in England, he’d taken my mother out in a tiny sailboat and nearly capsized in a storm off the Cornish coast.

My father brought me with him to Pakistan in 1987, when I was 13, deeming me old enough to experience the developing world. He dashed off to his World Bank meetings while I sunbathed poolside in a raspberry colored tank-suit, sipping fizzy lemonade at our gated hotel. If I raised a hand, a silent waiter brought me sweet-and-sour chicken. Deep in my teenage cocoon, I listened to Madonna on my Walkman, applied Coppertone oil SPF 2, and spoke to no one. By the third day I had a sunburn and cried myself to sleep slathered in aloe.

It feels important that I’m the only one left who knows the bomb story. My dad is dead and my mom has dementia and can’t remember or articulate the past. Now the keepers of my childhood are gone, all I have is my own chinked memory, with imaginative caulking to fill in the gaps.

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