Sunday, June 17, 2012

When your father's in your heart

There is no way to know where, or if, my father is now.

Well, one place I know he is for sure: my head. There he is, doing his "hocus-pocus-dominocus" trick for my nephew Mitch.

There he is in the basement of a halfway house for women where he volunteered, under a maze of leaking pipes, fixing them like a magician.

There he is, pulling me out of the hole I stepped in at the beach just as a wave went over my head.

There he is, sitting on the floor, his back against a wall, eating a sack lunch in a vacant apartment he owned and was painting.

There he is...walking my sister down the aisle at her wedding in the necktie she probably gave him for Father's Day a decade before. In his hospital bed, taking two long, last breaths. Handing my toddler sister baby chicks to play with. Applauding at my high school plays. Cheering at track meets. Wearing a tattered old Fedora against the rain. Jogging in place in the living room to rebuild his stamina after heart surgery.

There he is...diving in our frigid pool in the morning in order to "wake up." Choking back a sob when Edith Bunker died in "All in the Family." Riding our horse Billy, holding the reins with one hand like he was born to it. Wearing his "fun hat" (without which the fun simply could not begin) by the front gates of Buckingham Palace. Throwing my sister and me a football in the park during a road trip lunch stop.

There he is...chowing down on his favorite, a "chili size" at the local diner. Swimming out past the waves at Corona Del Mar. Pretending to like the annual Father's Day tie. Waking up in a sleeping bag next to me under a morning sky. Laying a new brick walkway to the house. Climbing trees to prune the branches.

There he is...riding on a Fourth of July float. Carving the Thanksgiving turkey and sampling it "for quality control." Walking the ancient Roman walls in York. Backpacking and camping out in the mountain chill and the desert heat with me and my Boy Scouts. Posing for family pictures with his six sisters and his brother. Laughing. Always laughing, big. Laughing to shake the roof off.

Forgive me, Dad, I was wrong. I know exactly where you are. Happy Father's Day.

See? The fun can now begin.

. . .