All I wanted was a normal birthday. Nothing special. Just a small dinner with family and friends to celebrate my 25th. Toward the end of the night, I was pretty sure that’s what I was getting. My closest friends and family were there, and I couldn’t of been happier. Plus, the night was extra special because one of my favorite people showed up: my dad! I couldn’t believe he made it. He doesn’t get out much. He’s almost 80 now, so it’s difficult for him to go places. I was thrilled to see him!
At the end of the night, he pulled me aside and said, “There’s something I need to tell you.” It seemed serious.
“Dad, are you sick?”
“Now that you’re getting older, it’s time you know the truth about me.”
“The truth? You’re scaring me. You are my real dad aren’t you?”
“Well, not exactly…”
I was nearly in tears.
“The truth is, I’m actually a tree.”
“You’re….. a tree?”
“Yes, I’ve been a tree this whole time.”
I couldn’t believe it. My very own father wasn’t my father at all. He’d been a tree, parading around like a dad, fooling us all. I’ve heard of things like this happening to other kids, but I never thought it would happen to me. Right before my friend Jen’s dad died, he revealed to her that he was actually a slab of granite. My other friend’s dad turned out to be a broken carburetor. The news once covered a story about a dad who tried to hide the fact that he was actually a tin bucket of fertilizer. I felt bad for those kids, but I wasn’t worried, because I’d always assumed my dad was a human dad. But as the shock started to settle in… this whole tree thing started to make some sense.
When I looked back, I realized my dad always sort of acted like a tree. He was 6 feet, 4 inches tall, which made it hard to hug him. Even when you did hug him, he stood completely still. He claimed that his “height,” gave him poor circulation, which made it hurt to hug back. Stupidly, I believed him. The only time he seemed really happy was when he went on extremely slow walks in the park outside our house. And even then, he’d just find an empty patch of soil next to a group of trees and stand there motionless for hours; sometimes through the night. When I asked my mom what he was doing, she just said, “Honey, after 30 years, I still don’t know.” I stopped asking. There was also the fact that my dad barely spoke. Talking to him was usually like talking to a…well, you get it. The only time he got chatty was when he talked about the weather. Anytime there was a windy storm, he’d stare out the window for hours, and frantically monologue to himself and anyone who’d listen about the safety of the trees in the park. But most dads are weirdly obsessed with meteorology, so I thought nothing of it. But looking back, it was all so obvious. How else would you explain why the shoulders of his windbreakers were always covered in what seemed like pounds of bird poop?!
As I continued to reminisce, I realized I should have known. After all, there were a few times when my dad was actually mistaken for a tree. One summer, my dad and I took a slow stroll through the park and out of nowhere, a dog came over and peed all over his leg. My dad didn’t mind at all. In fact, it seemed to put him at ease. That next spring, I found him standing in the park midday with a full fledged Robin’s nest on his head. He hardly noticed. One autumn, a group of fourth graders spent an entire night burying a time capsule under his feet. That same winter, my dad came home covered in snow, with a tattoo on his wrist that read M+ P 4EVA. Apparently, a teen couple had written their initials on him, completely convinced he was a tree.
And my god, he was.
My dad realized I was in shock.
“Now honey, just because I’m a tree, doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
“I love you too Dad.”
“Just one thing… now that you know, would you mind not calling me Dad, but calling me a tree instead?”
“Okay… I love you… TREE.”
“Ahhh, that’s better!”
I gave him a hug, and without fail, he stood completely still.
What a birthday! I’m still in shock from it all. If anything, I hope my story serves as a warning for other people with quirky dads. Sure, they might just be weird human being dads. But they also might be something else entirely, just walking around, acting like your dad. Part of me is glad I finally know the truth. And hey, despite how bizarre it all is, I still love my dad, I mean, tree-dad, oh heck… I still love my TREE!