I think of you now and I am young. I am a boy again, like I was on the piers in Shinecock canal in November, cold as ever, and bundled up in a big blue coat with mittens and a pull-over hat that was knitted by my Grandmother. The sky was gray and the docks were quiet. I sat there shivering from the cold but I did not complain. I watched the end of my fishing rod, (just like you told me to) and hoped a fish would swim along and take my bait.
I could have sat that way for hours and not caught a thing and the day would still be perfect. I could have lived there in fact, exactly as it was, cold and gray and quiet, shivering.
I didn’t know how to fish. I know I used to pretend to fish. I used to sit in our little aluminum boat you kept outside in the backyard. I would go and sit there for hours. I’d pretend I was fishing.
But that day in November, I finally had my chance. You didn’t say much. You showed me what to do. I guess we both enjoyed the moment the way it was, quiet, gray, and perfectly isolated away from the rest of the world.
I remember you checked the tip of my rod and pulled on the fishing line with your hand.
I remember how you screamed, “You got a fish!”
I reeled up and I swear I have never seen you as excited as you were then. The quiet was interrupted by your cheering. Bird flew away and seagulls cried. I remember. The docks and the piers and the water moving through the canal. There were buildings nearby and homes close by too. We were the only ones there. It was too cold for anyone else
But not for us
My first fish was a flounder
I wanted to keep this moment with me. Even then, I knew I had to remember this. I knew I could never forget this because somehow, I knew this memory would need to be preserved, like a photograph in my memory bank, which I keep and rub my hands across on days just like this one.
You were so
happy and so proud.
This was so amazing to me that I never wanted you to ever feel any way else.
I am not a product of divorce but I was part of it. What I mean is I knew there was a life before you and Mom but I never knew much and I was never allowed to ask questions.
I never knew why you felt the way you did nor did I understand why parents and children can go years without seeing or speaking to each other.
I never knew what that kind of pain was like. I just knew you felt it. I knew you never liked to talk about it and I knew you didn’t like when I had questions.
But I just wanted to understand
It is strange to be young and to consider the fact that my parents had a life before I was born.
I never considered that you or Mom had feelings just like everybody else.
In weird way, Moms and Dads are like a separate entity.
They’re not supposed to be flawed or have feelings other than love. They’re supposed to know everything. Moms know what to do when we are sick and Dads know what to do when something breaks.
As kids, we never consider that parents are human too.
I guess I just wanted to understand.
I guess I figured you didn’t want me to know
I just never knew why
You would tell me because I was too young to understand
Maybe you were trying to protect me from something.
Maybe I felt left out
Maybe we just didn’t understand each other.
It has been so long that I can hardly remember the sound of your voice. I have to think about it. And then I can hear you.
I wonder what you would say.
I wonder what you would tell me.
I wonder what you would think of the lake up the street from my house.
I wonder what you would think about the mountains behind my home or how you would be if you saw me perform.
As a matter of fact, I performed yesterday in front of a small hometown crowd using the story you once told me about the football played and the blind father that died.
The moral of the story was, “For the first time in my life, my father got to see me play football.”
I remember . . .
Of all the stories you told me, I remember this one most.
I was there to speak on behalf of a Mom and Dad that lost their son to addiction.
I was just a kid when you passed. I was 17, still in rehab, and only clean for a few short months.
And I’m sorry, Pop.
I’m sorry because those 17 years we had together were not long enough. They weren’t good enough. There was too much in between. There were too many distractions and fewer times like the ones when we played catch in the field behind the baseball fields on Merrick Avenue.
I see this
memory, almost in the old Technicolor of the late 1970’s.
Your hair was salt and peppered and parted from the right side over to the left. You had side burns. You wore a pair of sunglasses and a blue sweatshirt that fit the time. You had on a pair of blue jeans and sneakers.
And the sky was blue . . .
It was the kind of blue that only happens just after the ground has thawed and the Earth is warmed.
Life renews in times like this and the color of green returns to the trees. The winds are warm and the air smells of blooming flowers.
This is what small town purity looks like
I can see you now, standing in an open field behind the baseball fields..
Our town was so much younger then.
Then again, everything was younger then.
Weekends like this were a special reprieve from the rest of the world.
I envision you this way, younger, and me too, with my little baseball uniform and my baseball hat that was closed to the smallest size but still too big for my head.
I think of me in my green jersey and you in your weekend getup, tossing the ball to me to teach me how to throw.
I think of our world and our history and the wholesomeness of the American Dream. And to me, this was it. This was freedom. This is what men fought for, so that Fathers and sons can enjoy times like this together, in the springtime, so they can play ball and create memories.
You used to tell me I would understand when I got older . . .
I never liked when you said this.
In my opinion, this drove a wedge between us.
You were on your side of opinion and I was on mine.
This caused the rift between us grew bigger and we drifted farther apart.
I think we both felt the same way
I think we both wished we knew how to get along better or talk to one another.
I think you were frustrated with me and I was frustrated with you and it goes back to the saying, “Never the twain shall meet,” which is a saying that suggests two things are two different to co-exist
But here’s the thing–
I always wished we could have co-existed a little more than we did.
I think you do too.
We always had New Year’s. No matter what, no matter how hard, no matter what the problems were at the time, we always had our thing on New Year’s Day.
We walked the beach at Point Lookout
It was cold. I shivered. My toes were like icicles and my face hurt from the wind. I bundled up and doubled up on my socks.
I wore layers of clothing but winter is still winter and the beach, although beautiful to me on a winter’s morning; the winds are still cold and the sun was always absent of warmth and only came to shine brightness on a new day.
I hold these thoughts and memories because this is what I have of you.
I go here in my mind because in my mind, this is where you live. I don’t go to cemeteries because dead people live there.
And to me, for you to live on, I have to place you elsewhere.
I have a picture of you in the wheelhouse of the old lobster boat you had before I was born.
I think of you this way, in your captain’s hat, happy as ever, and moving through the sea.
I believe this is where you are.
I believe that where you are is a place that lets go of worldly things like resentment and regret and pain and guilt or shame.
I see you here and I sometimes cry because in my thoughts, maybe you’ve steamed too far from shore and I can’t find a way to reach you.
I miss you, Pop.
I just want to talk. That’s all.
I want to talk like a son talks to his father and hear you answer me the way a Father answers his son.
I want to sit on the beck behind my house and listen to you tell me stories. I miss your stories . . .
I’m working on a few of my own.
And I’m trying Pop
I’m trying to tell them as good as you would.
And I’m crying now . . . a grown man, 46, but yet, when I regard you, I feel like the boy I used to be, just trying, reaching out, and trying to make a connection, but never the twain shall me.
There was a time when I was shark fishing near the Oregon Wreck a few miles out of Fire Island Inlet.
The blue fish were swarming the boat and stealing the bait. I remember I was the only one awake.
We did an overnight trip and first light had made its way onto the scene. The lines were in the water. I swore, I could see you looking down on me. I swore I could feel you with me.
It was perfect.
I have to go Pop.
It’s Father’s Day and, well, I’m sure you know.
You went through divorce too and you were right, now that I am older and have experience of my own, I do understand.
I run a
class in the jail on Sunday.
They miss their Dads too.
Think I’ll tell them about us.
Maybe this will help them reconnect before the twilight comes and that which is flesh is flesh but that which becomes spirit is spirit.
Maybe our story can be impactful enough to save a life.
Wherever you are:
Just a sign. Just one.
it would mean a lot
Happy Father’s Day, Pop.
I miss you