Wednesday, March 9, 2016

if i could pack the sun

To avoid using a cliche, I won't tell you that my Dad is a man of few words. My guess is that that wouldn't even be true, that there are plenty of words that make him. Maybe they are all jumbled up inside like a box of rusted nails, sharp and mostly unused, or maybe they slip away just as soon as they form in his head. Ashes, heavy and dumb.

He clears his throat before he speaks, as if the act requires effort, preparation.

When, at 24, I told him I was moving to Los Angeles, the words must have gotten stuck somewhere inside as he turned the page of his paper that covered the lower half of his face. I waited, but not long, and then joined the rest of the family in the dining room. A few weeks later, I asked him out to breakfast, my way communicating that I wanted to hear his opinion about my move, even if I wasn't following it. We ate omelets at Perkins, and he told me that the last time he'd flown on an airplane was when he was younger than me, living in Virginia and working his first job. I hadn't known any of this. Later, we stopped at a plant nursery and, in silence, picked out flowers for my mother and him to plant around the house.

After I lived in LA for a few years, my dad finally got himself an email address (even a Facebook account!) and here is how I receive his words now: typed in one-sentence paragraphs, concise, sometimes poetic. Once, when I was getting ready to fly east for a family vacation at the beach, he told me to "pack the sun," which struck me as the most beautiful thing he could say, as if I could carry something capable of warming and spinning a whole solar system. Of course, he just wanted good weather to grace the unpredictable New Jersey August days.

Maybe he didn't realize that if I could give find a way to give him a light that would never fade, blue skies for days and that momentary glow in the heart at seeing the most beautiful sunrise over inexhaustible water that somehow stops just where you stand - if I could pack the sun and give it to him, I would. I am still searching for ways to tell him this.

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