My first and most vivid memory of my dad was when I was a little kid and he was working for Bell Telephone, and he had to pull a couple of all nighters for overtime. And I cried because I didn’t want him to go.
I remember having the conversation most sons have with their fathers (if they’re in a good relationship), where I said I wanted to work with him so that we could always hang out together.
I remember a myriad of weekends where my dad would pick my sister and I up and we’d either go to my grandmother’s vacation home in Wading River, or to his and his girlfriend’s apartment in Brooklyn, or, if it was summer, up to Lake George for a week. We’d eat BLT heroes and nothing more.
I remember he would travel all the way up to Camp Tyler Hill for visiting day, and bring so much cool shit, the kids in my bunk were delighted to be my friend for days, if not weeks. Soda, candy, cassette tapes of music, colored pencils and photocopies of great comic book art to color… and more.
Coloring artwork was one of our favorite things to do.
I cannot remember the first movie my father sat down and watched with me, but I do remember we spent a lot of time watching MASH and The Muppets which, I believe, were back to back when they were on t.v..
I do remember him sitting me down to watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and he was genuinely surprised when I wasn’t enjoying it. We watched the bridge blow up and he turned to me and said “That was something, right?”
I didn’t get it.
Sometimes, when we went out to Wading River, WPIX or one of the other channels had a kung-fu double feature. I know we watched them, but I don’t remember any of the titles.
I do remember the first time my dad sat me and my sister down to watch The Thing. We were young. Maybe 11 or so. We watched a VHS copy and when it came to this scene:
I remember not understanding why my father was laughing so hard.
We went to go see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It starts off with a dance scene at a club, and I turned to him and said ‘we spent $9 on this?’ Again he laughed.
Back then, he would leave my sister and I to go smoke out in the lobby. With twizzlers and popcorn and soda.
I remember going to see Timerider in the theaters after a chinese food dinner.
He loved chinese food.
He was, by far, the angriest person I’d ever met. Particularly when he was driving. He hated other drivers, and I think it was because he simply did not trust them.
I rarely saw this side of him. Very rarely. But when your father gets pissed off, and he’s that much bigger than you are… and he starts following a guy who cut him off, and starts calling him things that simply do not make sense…
As I grew older, I understood his anger better. Now-a-days I understand it almost completely.
I remember the time he handed me Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon, and copies of Asterix and Obelix.
I remember asking him if he had copies of the Punisher Mini Series by Mike Zeck and Steven Grant. He was a big comic collector. When he handed them to me, I hugged him. He was taken aback. At the time I thought they were very valuable and that he was trusting me with them was a big deal.
We’d go to comic book shows and have fun and meet artists. I got introduced to a much larger world, and started down the path of being some kind of artist.
One winter, when we were supposed to go to a big comic book show, it was snowing like crazy and I was very sick. I was supposed to see Tim Vigil, who was my favorite artist at the time, and show him my work.
My dad came out to Long Island, collected my portfolio, and went to the show. He showed Vigil my work, and bought nearly everything Vigil had on his table to give me the next time I saw him.
I went to college and he lasted just long enough to see me graduate. He didn’t understand the artwork I was doing, but he was supportive none the less.
My dad passed away on May 26th, 1996. He’d been in the hospital for about 15 days, had finally come home, and I was going to visit. When I got there, an ambulance was there to take him back to the hospital. He could not breath very well. I waited outside for them to take him into the ambulance. He looked at me, his eyes hardly able to stay still, and made a small waving motion.
I walked to the hospital, got into the emergency room, and helped the nurse take his clothes off. The nurse asked if he had any allergies.
“Asparagus,” he said. I laughed and said “I think you’ll be ok.”
That was about the last thing I said to him. I left the hospital to get some things from my ex-girlfriend’s house, and was about to head back when I checked my messages and found out that he’d passed away.
It’s been 14 years since, and some pretty fucked shit has happened since then.
Some good things, too.
I won’t soon forget something I thought I heard before I left the emergency room that day. I’m pretty sure he said “I need a moment with my son alone.” But his voice was so weak, I am not sure if it was my imagination or not.
I wonder what he had to say. I wonder how much future grief he might have spared me.
I’ll be 40 in a couple of months. I’m not happy about it. I’m not sure what he would say. We turned out to be very different men in some ways. Important ways.
I think he would be happy I’m finally trying to get my shit together and follow a dream of mine.
When we packed his casket, it was with scotch, a compass, a star map, and more. My father was always dreaming. He had some wonderful ideas on how his life should be. He worked so that he could enjoy life outside of work. Simple things. Fun things. He loved his kids, loved his girlfriend, loved his family.
I imagine him in that other dimension, watching us, invisible, yelling, saying he was there, right there, and that he was paying attention to all of us.
In my entire life, he’s the only person I felt could successfully break through the veneer that should be the afterlife. And he would say, “You are not going to fucking believe this…”