Saturday, February 18, 2012

If My Father Had Been Here

At a wintery party tonight, I saw my father.

I was sitting at a dining room table, recovering from ice fishing and snowmobiling.  He was sitting on a sofa in the adjacent living room, silhouetted by the crackling fire in the stone fireplace.

It was not my father, of course. My father is dead.  But I suddenly realized I had been staring for about 5 seconds at the profile of a man who, sitting at just that angle, in just that light, took me back 10 years, before life's final winter took my father.

I looked away, but my eyes kept drifting back. That initial moment brought out a child in me, a boy who would have gone and sat down on the empty sofa seat reserved for me.  I knew that in five minutes the moment would pass, so I lingered, creating and absorbing a moment beautifully false and achingly close.

If that man had been my father, I would have got up from the table at that moment and sat next to him. I would have winced as he told corny jokes, listened as he maneuvered through conversations of any topic, spoke boldly when he asked my opinion, watched the background basketball game with him, refilled his coffee when I got more for myself, teased him about not trying the polar bear plunge, and just been really proud of his presence among my friends.

That's what I would have done if my father had been there. 

Five minutes later, the moment had passed, dissolved into the dwindling stream of sweet memories.

Thirty minutes later, I was home, winter party and wintery memories left snugly next to the embers in a friend's hearth. I carried sleeping Vincent into the house, read the prologue to a story Braden had written, and sat down with AJ to watch Ohio State and Michigan play some hoops.

That is what my father would have done, if he had been here.