My dad was like a father to me.
He took me with him to fix my Godmother Ginny’s air conditioner at the Ceramic Shop. He showed me his humble quarters at the Burdick Hotel. I followed him around while he repaired fridges and jammed locks. I recall watching Dad play horse shoes by the tracks at the fire station. He wore blue pants most of the time.
I remember the sound of the tires on a gravel road as we delivered his Free Press route before sun up. That’s when I asked him what his biggest regret was. “I wish I hadn’t got so angry at your mother.” Me too Dad.
When the benign tumor stole one eye, half of his smile, fifty percent of his hearing, and added an unsteady swagger when he walked I was nine. I had no clue how scared he was when he went to the Mayo Clinic. That was the end of his fireman days but thankfully not all his days.
He came back with his wry humor intact and a comb-over that was beyond justifiable. I imagined him using the paste brush from Sister Jean’s second grade room to adhere the peninsula across the bay of his baldness. Even on his deathbed he parted his hair to the side. His one hair. Parting was such sweet sorrow.
I don’t remember which of my nine siblings it was. The one who caught Dad at a supreme moment displaying all his quirks plus one. He was working in his yard on a blistering summer day. Bent over weeding or what not in his blue pants most likely. They came up behind him with their announcing hello. He turned while rising off balance, his comb-over dangling off the wrong side of his crown. His usual first response was half shouted “Heh?” His “Heh?” accompanied a half smile with his permanent wink and two Kleenex hanging out of his nose. One for each nostril. We laugh every time one of us draws the scene up from our memories.
Yes, Dad was like a father to me. Not perfect.
A few years ago I had an epiphany, maybe a vision, could have been a dream. No matter. I was a kid playing Lego’s on the wool area rug in our living room. Dad was on the opposite end reading a newspaper and listing to classical music. The scene had a Sunday feel to it. Quiet. For no particular reason to my mind, Dad folded the paper and set it down. He got up and came across the room and got on the floor next to me and played Legos with me. He came over with his comb over. His lock of hair unlocked and flopped over and he didn’t even notice as we interlocked the Legos and our quiet hearts together.