I’ve been playing with the ratio of cream to coffee this week
trying to replicate the color of the coffee I’d sip, sitting on Dad’s lap
early in the morning
after I tricked him by sneaking a squeaky mouse toy into his back pocket
bellows of surprise rang out when he sat down
part of the game we played day after day when I was 5.
He taught me how to skate,
And how to peel an apple in one motion so the entire peel would fall to the ground
and form the shape of a letter.
Usually an S, sometimes a U, or an M;
Always delightful anticipation.
Long walks on the Big Wheel to Aunt Charlotte’s on Wednesday afternoons.
Long drives to skating lessons and then to summer camp.
Long talks about history and growing up.
We agreed 4th grade was a significant leap from 3rd.
Afternoons in the office on Liberty street
playing with the Check Machine and other antiques.
Saturday night walks from Grammie’s to get candy
and twice, to get a pet cat.
He sat in the car during Friday afternoon piano lessons,
in the bleachers during Thursday night figure skating
and with me in a booth right after, for Conehead Sundaes at Friendly’s.
And the snow I volunteered to shovel for community service? He did it, before I woke up.
In high school Dad sustained my pack-a-day sugarless gum habit
and refused my request to drop me off 3 – 5 blocks away from school.
Perhaps because we were in the “new car”, the 1985 black Chevy Monte Carlo with red stripes,
as opposed to the “old car”, the 1981 black Chevy Monte Carlo with red stripes.
A constant stream of coffee, jolly ranchers, and giant blueberry muffins fueled his marathon
He had a wallet full of quotes
and a closet full of personal affects he’d proudly announce were 50 years old.
Like the old suitcase I sneered at as an adolescent, the same suitcase the hipsters in New York
City gazed at with longing during a recent visit.
Six years ago, in New York City he left the hotel and made his way to Rockefeller Center,
asking strangers for directions.
We rode the subway together to Brooklyn.
“No vacancies!” he’d holler, when relatives would pull into the driveway for a visit.
“Be brave”, he said, when removing the splinter from my heel at age seven.
“You have a good brain,” he said, enough times to convince me I did, even during those times in
life when we convince ourselves we don’t.
Then, eight years ago, “Go forth and live the life you always wanted,” he said, quoting Emerson.
And last July, as we sat in the car outside Starbucks, my belly barely clearing the steering wheel,
the tumors ravaging his bones,
“You have a beautiful girl, and you’ll have a beautiful boy, but I won’t meet him.”
That was when we said goodbye.