Three, thirty-one, thirteen, that was his birthday. Of course, I failed to mention the year. It wasn’t 2013; it was 1913, that’s when my father was born. Yes, my father would be a hundred this year, if he were alive. He’s been gone now for not quite a quarter century and I miss him, still.
A short time ago, I was driving to an early morning meeting. As I drove onto the highway, I saw the early morning fog clinging to the ground. I heard my dad’s voice whisper in my ear, “Do you know what that’s called? They call it miasma.” I smiled. As it happened, that was a very long day for me. I had a board meeting with the Florida Writers Association. Then I had to get to Disney. As I walked into the building, I saw the early evening sky. It was red. I remembered the saying my dad taught me: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.”
My father had many sayings, many words of wisdom:
“I don’t want to be rich; I just want to live like I am. If I can have a nice house, a boat to sail, and a cottage on the Vineyard, I’ll be happy.”
“’There’s no accounting for taste,’ said the old man, as he chewed on his sock.”
“The day you find something you love to do and be paid to do it is the last day you’ll ever work.”
My daughter never met my dad, which I guess is why I wrote the book, “Love Among the Ruins,” the story of how my mom and dad met. I wanted her to know something of him. Yet, how much she does know about him? I told her the story of how a kingdom was lost for want of a horseshoe nail; that was one of his stories. Oh, he had so many stories! I wish now I’d taken better notes on all of them. One night, looking into the night sky, we saw the new moon. I said, “Ah, there’s the new moon in the old moon’s ‘arms’.” She was confused, and I explained. This again was one of his stories. When I was teaching her to drive, it was my voice, but my dad’s words, especially when I spoke of driving defensively.
When I watched an old BBC miniseries about Edward VII, my wife didn’t watch it with me, she’s not into that stuffy British history stuff. I watched it alone. Yet, I wasn’t alone. My dad was at my elbow for every episode. Edward’s nickname was Bertie; that was my nickname for my dad. He always said that he felt like Edward: a grandfather and an old man before he ascended the “throne” to become patriarch of the family. In the final episode, Edward lay on his deathbed and I thought of my dad. Emotion overcame me.
On many occasions, someone in our family has seen a group of people together and said, “Ah, looks like they’re having a gam.” The other day, I was driving my wife and me to meet some friends, and I said it myself. We were passing two police cars parked off on the side of the road. We looked at each other and smiled. It was another of my dad’s sayings; he even named his first boat “The Gam.” The word used to mean a meeting between whalers at sea, but it came to mean any social gathering. Later, we passed a herd of cattle grazing in a field. Near each cow walked one or more white birds. I heard the whisper again. “Oh look, the cows and birds are strolling along, and having a little chat.” Again, I smiled. Now I know that the birds are looking for any little bugs the cows disturb as they eat. Back when I was a little boy, I thought they were chatting. Yes, I told my daughter the same story when she was little.
Sometimes a movie or TV show will come on, and I’ll watch it and remember how much he enjoyed it. It could be something as popular as “All in the Family” or “Spencer’s Mountain,” or maybe something a little different, like “Daria” or “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob.” Yeah, my dad had quite the varied tastes. Whenever “Spencer’s Mountain” came on, he and I would watch it; it was one of our favorites. It made us laugh, and it made us cry.
On 31 July 1989, my father left us. It’s been almost twenty-four years since we last spoke. Yet, I still often hear his voice.
I still miss him, dearly.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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