Jammed at the Gate

March 28th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Years after my Dad died, my Mom told us about a conversation they had in his hospital room. He said, “If I could live to see our younger son married, I could die happily that night.” He assumed my older brother would marry first. The story struck us as odd. The statement far as I knew was out of character. My Father was a lot of things; a sentimental man, he was not. We did not celebrate holidays. There were no anniversary dates – hell, there were no dates, period. A tough childhood memory for me is on my ninth birthday, I ran up to my Dad as he got home from work. I saw him coming up the steps from the garage. I ran along the side of the apartment building to cut him off as he got to the side gate. “Dad, guess what day this is?” He grunted something that indicated he didn’t know. I withdrew to the safety of silence. He walked in. I still wonder if he really knew and jammed me on purpose.

So, what gives? Why the sentimentality? There’s another story my Mom tells of a train ride. My Father kept getting up every few minutes, heading for the back of the train. My Mom got up to see what he was doing, and caught him adjusting a handkerchief he’d hung against the window along our seats to shield his two sleeping boys from the afternoon sun. There must be something that happens when a man is in the presence of his children. Something bad, something scary that makes him want to withhold that thing – that warm thing he really wants to extend.

You know what I think? I think the living long enough to see my sons married was really my Father. The guy who adjusted the handkerchief. And I knew it! I knew it. He jammed me at that side gate.

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