Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dear Dad,

I become more like you every day. Remember how I used to sit in the cool of your machine shop as you brooded over chunks of steel and gears? You whistled the refrain from "Light my Fire." You called me skeeziks.

"Why don't you get me another beer, skeeziks?"

Now your granddaughter gazes at me as I brood over my keyboard. I call her dumples.

I know entirely too much about sex and whiskey. I squint in the sun. I rest my left elbow out the window when I drive, brushing my lips up and down with the backs of my left fore and middle fingers. I say things like, "This is the dumbest dumb dumbness I have ever seen," when I drag my kid to a mud bog and we watch guys drive their pick-up trucks into pits full of muck.

I can open a beer with one hand and know the best spot in Cleveland from which to watch the Labor Day Airshow for free.

The woman to whom you were married for 43 years, the woman who huffed and rolled her eyes and referred to you as "your father" as she accused you of failing to shut the windows, start the fire and remove the steaks from the freezer still continues to use the term even though you have been dead forty-two months and twenty three days. She invokes your memory at every available turn. You get a lot of credit these days.

"People talk to you because you have your father's charisma. Very few people have charisma. Your father had charisma."

"That's because you have your father's understanding of spatial relationships. Your father was absolutely brilliant that way."

Quite a change from, "Goddamnit, Bill! I just want shelving. Is that so much to ask for?"

When you used to joke about a man that would become your son-in-law, saying that a wedding was a small price to pay for a lifelong indentured servant, you had no idea that, in the vacuum of your absence, that man would chop the wood for your widow without complaint, lift your daughter's whiskey and grief soaked body from the floor, and hold your sole grandchild in his arms like so many flowers.

I remember when you made maple syrup. Strapped around every maple tree on your five-acre lot was a whiskey bottle.

"Dad," I said, "there's whiskey bottles strapped on all your trees."

You rolled your eyes and made a big tsk sound. "How the hell else would I collect the sap, for chrissake?"

I still have my cruet of the resulting syrup. I am unable to use it.

I remember the Stroh's cans and the motorcycles and the Jaguars and the Jeep. I remember laughing and laughing and laughing.

I carry on for you.

I treat people a certain way, and I do it because I value them and value their time. I eschew that which sucks the light and joy from life, embrace that which exudes it. I found the clues and detritus you left behind. I protected Mom when the villains swarmed around her.

Despite the web of scars around my heart, I walk in jubilation. I inhale. I fall down.

And I get back up.

I am your daughter.



William F. O'Brien


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