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About a Burl
Why is she airing her dirty laundry, anyway?
I searched for a photograph of my father and I for this post. This is it. The one and only. Me studying the ground while being supported by my grandmother while he dresses up for Easter in a perfect 1970s pink polyester suit. It makes sense, the lack of photographic evidence this man is my father, since he was practically gone by the time I was born, officially gone before I began kindergarten.
My father is not something I ever wanted to write about. It isn’t even something I felt like I “had” to write about to help in my deconstruction of life with(out) an absent, out of control, father. I’ve tried to separate myself from Burl my entire adult life, going so far to change the spelling of my last name when Google was invented so I would not be connected to him. I moved thousands of miles away, never having lived in the same town with the man after my parents divorced and my mother moved us to Durant, Oklahoma where she pursued her Master’s degree.
I won’t let my father define me
My father, Burl Peveto Jr., bounced around between his hometown of Sulphur, Oklahoma to other small, sneaky, towns where “some people had a killin’ coming,” in southern Oklahoma. He would move further south until he eventually made his way to El Paso, Texas, where he sat on one side of the border while operating on both. I avoided summer and holiday visits, throwing myself into extracurricular activities like a girl version of Max Fischer (see: the absolute best Wes Anderson movie, Rushmore). If a club had a guaranteed weekend commitment, I was in it. Bonus points for summer camps, trips, and conferences. My avoidance was so effective it’s probably why my older brother never understood why I would even be upset by our father. After all, “You didn’t get it as bad as anyone else.” This is true.
When talking about Burl, my audience (friends and family) have often said, “You should write a book,” but I didn’t want to. “I won’t let my father define me,” has always been my answer. I still won’t. But I would like to try to understand why my father is who he is, and why I am who I am. Because otherwise, I can’t stop thinking about this man in my life whom I’ve tried to avoid, but who is dug in so deeply I could die if I fully extracted him from my being. But even though Burl Peveto Jr. could arguably be considered a parasite, that act wouldn’t kill him. Even when it should.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I have been involved in my father’s life. Weekends and holidays which paused while he was in prison, then turned into random visits as I was a young adult. He visited me in New York City twice, with different women. And after he became ill, my small, new family, spent a lot more time visiting and checking in. I’ve flown him out to Los Angeles for multiple Thanksgivings when his last wife left him, and he was broke and alone. I haven’t been as absent a daughter as he has been a father. Even when my therapist, my mother, my gut, told me I should let go.
So what am I doing now? Now that his phone has been taken away and when he does have it, he no longer has a need to call me multiple times a day? I guess I’m breathing out. I’m able to have the space and time to do whatever it is I’m doing here.
I think, I’m pretty sure, that in exploring his inability to achieve death, I am working towards an understanding of his life. Scratch that, it’s helping me understand my life in relation to his life. That’s all I actually want. And all I’ll be able to have. So it works out.
Thanks for reading, or skimming, or just looking at cute pictures from the 1970s. I’m not sure what I even want from you, the reader. But I so appreciate you being here.