HE WAS MY FATHER
“There is nothing to fear in this storm son. It is only thunder. It is only lightning. It is nothing but water. Stand with me now and we will laugh at the pathetic onslaught that affects us not! Behold your power my son. You walk amidst all of this unscathed. You are more than this!”
That is my most endearing memory of my father. I will never forget that early A.M. confrontation. I was but three years old and afraid of the cacophony surrounding me. Rumbling explosions of thunder. Bolts of light mortally wounding the cool darkness. And me all alone in my little bed shivering though warm and secure within my blankets. Lord, how I wished for mommy at that moment cradling me and protecting me from that which I did not understand. But, it was daddy scooping my half asleep self up from the unaware comfort. It was daddy that pranced boldly through the door and into the middle of Armageddon and mocked it as though it were the dullest child he had ever met. In that moment I became what I am. I learned the lesson without intellect or comprehension. We danced and shouted and mocked that which we feared and defeated the boastful lie of its power. I became forever his son.
There was a point much later in life when all the little small deceits began to fade one at a time as in peeling an onion to excuse tears. My tender side would slip out in a sigh which I quickly covered up with a manly cough. And as though finally given a safe egress his would sneak out as well. I remember him finding my notebook of poetry and the terror of seeing him read my unedited vulnerable self. “This is really good son. I didn’t know you had it in you.” With that he handed me his notebook worn and unopened or tended to in many years. It was a trove of revelations and insights into life. The truth having been revealed removed any need to explain our small deceits over the years. “I guess I’ll have to resume writing son.” He said. “I don’t want to lag behind.” And over the years we got to know each other in a way that few men allow. We reached a point where we could cry over “The Color Purple” and then laugh at our own softness of heart, learning of the great power of honesty and revelation. Indeed, he never seemed larger then when his feelings trickled down his cheek. To the outside world he as do I presented ourselves as being without fear. “It is fear son that cowards prey upon. They smell it and crave it as sustenance to keep the falseness of their persona alive. Most people are bluffing son. The ones that aren’t, you needn’t fear.”
I remember in great detail the very last time I saw my father. He had been ill for some time both physically and mentally. This man that had been larger than life to me for over fifty years suddenly became small and frail. His sharp mind and keen wit had dulled like a butcher’s favorite knife. There was little left to sharpen. Still somewhere in his mostly vacant eyes was an occasional glint to remind me of what he once was. We were in the courtyard of the convalescent hospital he lived in. I laugh here as I am made aware that even now I am reluctant to call it a rest home. Some guilt I suppose escapes the salve of rationalization. As we sat together in silent bond it began to rain. As a thirsty flower in a desert light filled his eyes. Amidst the frantic coaxings of nurses and interns we one more time howled and berated the sudden deluge. He died that evening having worn out in great style everything the good Lord had given him.
He left no will. Indeed there was nothing left to bequeath really. There was some furniture and books and photographs. These were already in my possession. He left no instructions as to where to spread his ashes. But, I hear the distant sound of thunder off in the distance. It is time to say goodbye.