Once upon a time you told me stories at my bedside. You made up silly characters like Vernon with a V and Chick Pea and used your fingers to act out their crazy shenanigans. And at the end of it all, you called in the dream truck to carry me away to a land of puppies and rainbows. In summer, you were tan and your green eyes glinted in the sun. You had muscles on your arms and would lift me over your head for a ride on your shoulders. You paid me and my cousins a dollar a minute (a fortune!) to massage your back. There were wild games of hide and seek where you hunted us as a monster. And I knew all my little friends wanted a father like you.
After the divorce, we happily wasted away many Saturday afternoons with double features, arcades and ice cream. And even though it was you, me and little Jason, somehow you were always the most appreciative child there.
Later, you taught me how to love books and gave me a sense of my own worth when you suggested I’d find a role model in Dagney Taggert. You had a wonderful sense of humor, and a genuine, joyful laugh that sounded a lot like Ernie from Sesame Street. Your brain worked a little different than other people’s. You dramatized and romanticized life, creating fantasies in your mind, dreaming of bigger things. A deep thinker, you loved debate and conversation, and found the world a fascinating, beautiful place. You have always had a sense of wonder and adventure that I may not have always understood, but which I appreciated. You remained young at heart, always, refusing to see yourself as old or disabled or ill. You never gave up your vision of a young, strong you, filled with aspirations that could still be fulfilled and magic carpet dreams to whisk you away. No matter how many obstacles you threw in front of yourself to trip over, you always hoped to overcome.
Unfortunately, Dad, it seems like we’ve finally hit up against a hurdle that we can’t climb. Even if you use me as leverage, I don’t think we’re going to be able to pull this one off. Your body has decided it’s had enough. I don’t really blame it. I know the suffering it’s gone through.
You haven’t been happy or comfortable in so very long. So now I’d like to think, like you did, that we don’t really know what’s on the other side. It may be a beautiful place of comfort where we are light as air and floating on bubbles. I hope for you that you are forever dreaming of the best that you were. Your humor and intelligence. Your ability to think different. To get excited over possibility and to remain always playful and childlike. I see you under the stars, next to the ocean, running on the boardwalk near your apartment in Atlantic Beach; sand at your feet, sea salt and pepper hair, taking it one step at a time, your eyes on the future. I see you upstate in the lush Catskill mountains, on the softball field, running back for a ball that couldn’t possibly be caught, except by you. I see you reading, book after book, and handing them over to me. “Doll Face,” you’d say, “you’re going to like this one.” And I did. I loved and cherish almost every book you recommended.
You taught me a lot about myself, about giving, about human suffering, about perspective and about patience, which granted, I still have a ways to go.