father could make a boat dance.
My father could make a boat
dance and sing.
My father could make a boat.
My father was shorter than
your father, and stronger, especially in his
My father was more silent
than your father, and more kind and gentle.
My father had less schooling
than your father, and was more wise.
My father was selfless and
humble, and he taught me competitiveness.
My father drove noisy trucks
and hated them as much as he loved them.
My father died, and something
in me was born, kicking and screaming,crying
and longing, hurting and very much alive.
Like my father. Very much alive. In me.
Enduring and more lovely with each passing
Less in focus
and sharper in the mind.
Iíve been meaning to write
about my father, but I was putting it off,
and putting it off, afraid that if I began,
that I would end up writing a book. That is
an odd fear for one who loves to write and
to tell stories. So maybe there are other
reasons for my delays, other becauses,
buts. Who really wants to
see and swim in the well of my tears, I would
ask myself. It is dark and dangerous down
there. Who would be so interested in such
emotion in another?
I find myself fascinating,
and my life amazes me, but how far does this
transfer? The writerís art can make art of
oneís reality, I know, but how far can I fling
these images of mine, and who would want to
And so I write, sometimes
cowering behind the pulpit of my narrative,
sometimes standing tall and proud, praise
ringing in my ears.
I have pictures of my father
and his boats. Four pictures that I placed
in a photo album show his abilities as a dancing
master. My father, 15 horses of horsepower,
and a pile of sticks in the water -- dancing
(and singing to the tune of those 15 throaty
When I fish out the photo
album and look at the four photos, I am first
struck by the presence of my mother, the one
who couldnít swim, the one who always said,
careful. Riding like the wind
in my fatherís boat.
The fourth photo is the
astounding one. The wake of the boat has drawn
a comma in the water, and there at the tail
of that comma is my fatherís boat, my father,
and my mother, reaching for the sky. The nose
of the boat is 10 feet in the air and the
rump of the boat is digging a hole to drown
Now I build boats, with
great care and love. My latest is a tubby
jonboat with an odd little
cabin that seems perferct for the Erie Canal.
My wife has suggested that we call the boat
Flipper, because she
helped with the flipping of this boat after
the hull was finished and painted. I kinda,
sorta, wanna to call the boat Wallbanger
in honor of my father, but Wallbanger
will be the next boatís name. This one is
Dad was a trucker, which
meant that he was a CBíer, too, because the
advent of the Citizen Band radio made truck
driving safer, more effective, and a lot like
a party. If I had ever owned a CB radio, my
handle would have been Mr.
Ed, because for a long time
I was a copy editor. My fatherís handle was
his name was Harvey, and because of a sweetish
alcoholic drink known as the Harvey
Nicknames are best when there
is a current of cleaverness borne on an undercurrent
of malice, and Wallbanger
has those two currents in balance. To call
my mild and gentle father Wallbanger
requires a dash of malice.
I call him Harvey
Rabbit, in my mind, because
he was so cute and at the same time so strong
and silent as to be almost invisible. A dash
of malice, and a jigger of love and affection.
We were having breakfast
in a nondescript diner, my father and I, talking
about nothing and everything, in the way of
fathers and sons. Somewhere in the flow of
this, my father tells me that sometimes, when
he is working alone in his workshop, he feels
the presence of my Aunt Martha, dead these
many years. I forget what I said in reply,
but I fancy that I will always remember this
day when my father taught me how to talk with
He taught me how to pull
a bent nail by placing a scrap of wood under
the head of the hammer, and when I pull a
bent nail, I say, Thanks,
He taught me how to tap
a nail on its nose before driving that nail
into a board so that the nail wonít split
the board, and when I tap a nail on its nose
and drive it into a board, I say, Thanks,
He taught me how to kerf
a board carefully with the saw before cutting
with great vigor, because one careful cut
will guide the saw accurately the rest of
the way, and when I kerf a board, I say, Thanks,
I live, Jesus tells us, you
will live. It sounds so puffed
up and pretensious, taken out of context and
stripped of its divinity. In that naked condition,
the phrase stands for my enduring and continuing
connection with my father: Because I live,
he lives, and because he lived, I live.
Sometimes when I talk now
with my father, I realize how close the talking
comes to prayer, and how I want to separate
this communication with my father from my
communication with THE
Father. I donít pray to my
dad; I simply talk to him, and I donít ask
him for things Ė I thank him for his love
and wisdom. When I pray, I usually canít get
much beyond loving
God, loving God, loving God. Help me. Help
me. Help me, except on Sundays
when I can lose and find myself in the Prayers
of the People.
you had known my father, you would know me,
Jesus tells us. Thatís true for the rest of
us, too, I believe. One piano-playing blues
it this way, about her mentor:
Sheís in my right hand, sheís in my
left hand ...
My father taught me how
to build boats, and he taught me how to heal
with a touch and a gentle word. He was extraordinary,
and I miss him like fire.