The 3 A.M. Epiphany is an ongoing series. Over time I’m tackling Brian Kiteley’s book The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction. Check out my other pieces in this series.
This exercise read, “Create a brief fragment of an epiphany, a moment beyond words, beyond explaining, in which a character sees the necessity of change. 300 words”
Depending on who I’m talking to, I either want the Fifth Commandment revered or obliterated from Moses’ tablet.
See, I want my daughter, Isabel to honor me, but I don’t want to have to do the same with my own parents. That’s all. I’m not being selfish, though. I wasn’t raised right – they don’t deserve it.
But, a conversation she and I had earlier has shaken me.
I was pushing her on the swing. Sometimes, when I push her on an especially beautiful day, she falls asleep. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. Between the gentle motion of the swing and the warm Florida breeze, she just can’t keep her eyes open. But, I don’t mind.
After swinging for a few minutes, she got very quiet. I assumed she was dozing off, and, out of fear that she might topple out of her seat, I called to her.
“Hm?” she replied, not looking back.
“Oh, I thought you were sleeping.”
“No, I was thinking.”
“About what, beautiful?”
“Grandma and Grandpa.”
“What about them?”
“They’re your parents?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“So, you love them?”
“It’s—,” I hesitated.
“Yeah, I love them.”
“Yeah, you do. Because I love you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I love you and Mommy because you take care of me. And they take care of you.”
Isabel hadn’t looked back at all. As she had spoken, I had watched her hair imitating the back-and-forth of the swing. Between her delicate words, I could only hear the wind blowing through the massive Camphor trees above us.
Much like Isabel, the brief conversation was simple and significant.
“Daddy, I’m tired,” she said after a few moments.
As we walked inside, I got to thinking: why she had questioned my love for my parents in the first place? Was she simply asking one of the myriad questions that 3-year-olds ask, or had she noticed something? Had I been dismissive or cold? Had I said something in front of her, not realizing that she was soaking up every syllable?
I’ll never know what had been going through her mind. All I know is that, as I made my way inside, I held Isabel’s hand a little tighter than I had before. I held it with the intentionality expected from fathers, as well as from sons.