I never thought i would miss him (part 1)

May 27, 2010
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Losing someone you once loved and admired is even harder. So I think as I sit on a bench in the middle of the dingy room, surrounded by an ocean of carpet worn and ripped from the feet of millions. I have never before felt the way I feel at this moment. The snow outside flutters gently to the ground, as do the tears streaming down my cheeks. I rest my head in my hands. I always thought a child is supposed to be there when their father dies, instead I found out over the phone from 1500 miles away. It has been exactly five months to the day since I spoke to him last. My mother had called me, choking back tears as she said,” Are you sitting down?” I immediately knew that something was wrong. My mom always asked if I was sitting down before delivering the worst news. As if I was going to collapse while walking up my stairs and break my skull. Before I could respond she choked out, “It’s your father, he’s passed away.” Her voice trailed off and she began to sob once again. I had no reaction in complete shock I hung up the phone. The father who I had seen only twice in the past five years was gone. I would never see him alive again I would not see his gray stubbled chin or hear his raspy, northeastern accent. I would not feel the touch of his leathered hand on my shoulder or detect the slight odor of his pine chewing tobacco. I would not see the way he walk with an ever so slight limp from when he broke his leg, or hear him tell jokes that only he would laugh at. I sank down to the ground and as the truth set in I started to cry. As the sun sank lower and lower in the sky and turned from yellow to a rosy orange I did not make any move. As it finally turned black I wiped my face on the inside of my sleeve and got up.
Finally it is time for my plane to leave. Luckily I was able to get a flight out of Milwaukee the day after I found out about my father. Unluckily I am on my way to my father’s funeral. I walk onto the plane to seat 24c and sink down. The plane is very empty as though there is some kind of plague that makes everyone want to stay home. There is no one in the seats next to me. As we sit on the runway I drift off to sleep.
A small boy runs through the crisp leaves, crunching under his feet like a symphony of autumn. “Wait up Fath,” the boy pants. The man with him slows his long strides as the boy tries to match them. The man takes his son’s hand and they walk together through the woods. The man and his son come to pond with the sun glinting off the water in the afternoon light. They are surrounded by trees colored like a summer sunset. The boy grabs a stick off the ground and fends off the imaginary enemies that surround them. ”Fath, grab a sword, we’re surrounded!” The man grabs a stick and they stand back to back fighting to save their pond.
“We won!” the boy exclaims. As they play and talk the sun sinks lower and lower in the sky.
Finally the man says,” We should head home for dinner; I think your mom is making chicken soup.”
“Come on, let’s go,” the boy says running back up the trail like he has somewhere very important to be.
I try to hold on to the dream for as long as possible. I keep my eyes closed, basking in the warmth of the memory. If only it could have lasted. But if there is one thing I have realized since yesterday, it is that few things can last forever. The only things I have carried through my entire life are memories. The monotonous rumble of the engine continues as I sit up and rub my eyes. I look around at the other people on the plane and see a man working on his laptop while his son tries to get his attention. The man is typing on the computer and I hear the boy say “Dad, Dad”
“Just a second,” the man says, turning back to his work. After a few minutes of waiting the boy gives up and looks out the window. I can remember feeling the exact same way with my father.
The boy, now almost 11 years old waits patiently at the window, staring out at the summer day. A look of joy is on his face, because Fath is coming home from work early to take him to a baseball game at Yankee stadium. The Yankees are playing the Dodgers, and the boy has been anticipating the game for a week. “Mom, what time will dad be home?” the boy asks his mother. She is a short woman with brown hair, but she always wears high heels to seem taller. “He said he would be home by three, but it is about 3:10, there must be some traffic holding him up.”
The boy turns back to the window, looking out at the green grass and bright sun, he can feel the warmth through the glass, and 3:10 turns to 3:20 and then 3:30 eventually the boy, disappointed, walks up to his room and looks at the pictures on his walls of he and his father hiking and camping, playing baseball and building a go kart and thinks about how much their relationship has changed ever since Fath got a job at a law firm. The boy imagines what they would be doing right now if his father didn’t get the job. Maybe everything would have stayed the same and they still would go hiking in the woods and collect smooth rocks to skip. Hours later the boy’s father arrives home.
“Did I miss dinner?” he asks as he walks in.
The boy is sitting on the plaid couch in the dark tv room; watching the game on TV. “No, but you missed the game.” The boy replies sullenly.
“OH! That’s right” the man says, looking down at his shiny leather shoes for a moment, and then back to the boy, “I knew I forgot about something. I’m so sorry bud, I was just really busy at work today, we have a big case coming up. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
“Fath, this happens all the time, why can’t you ever remember to keep your promises?” the boy says.”Like remember the time you promised you would help me fix up that boat in the backyard so we could go sailing, or the time you said we could go camping in the Catskills over the weekend but then you had to go to a conference instead.”
The man glances around the room focusing on anything except his son, “Look, bud, I’m really sorry I wanted to go, you know I did, but I had so much work to finish today,” the man returns.
“Aren’t I more important than a case?” the boy questions.
“Of course you are, and I’m really really sorry. I really will make it up you, just as soon as stuff at the office settles back down. Ok?”
“Fine,” they boy rejoins, looking as dull as the floral curtains on the windows.
I continue to search the plane, in an attempt to forget theses memories. I see a man with a briefcase sitting a few rows ahead of me. He is dressed exactly like my dad used to dress for work, a black suit with a red tie, and he is carrying a shiny leather briefcase. My father used a wrinkled and worn briefcase that I loved, but as soon as he became a partner he bought a fancy new one that was stiff and boring. Where the old briefcase was soft and wrinkled with tarnished clasps, this one had shiny bright buckles and smooth, perfect black leather. As soon as he got the job he was done with achieving more, he was content where he was, then he started to focus on me.

The boy, now in his junior year of high school, sits in his living room, crowded with chairs couches with end tables piled precariously high with legal size papers. As he begins to flip through the channels on TV his father walks in and sits down next to him. The boy looks at him in surprise; his father never has time to talk to him. The boy flips the tV off and turns to look at his father intently.
“You should get started on your college applications, the early bird gets the worm, as they always say,” the man says. “Where do you want to go? Harvard? Yale? Stanford? MIT?”
“I don’t know,” the boy responds, “I’m not sure I want to go to any of them.”
“Well, what about Oxford? Duke? CAL Berkley?”
“I’m not sure I’m ready to decide yet,” the boy says, with a nervous laugh.
“Well if you don’t start planning now your future will be on top of you before you know it, you can’t make anything of yourself without planning,” the man replies, “It’s your future, and it’s up to you to make it a good one. College is the first step without it you’ll end up working for minimum wage at a cheap restaurant for the rest of your life.”
As I sit there staring out the windows, drowning in my father’s expectations from my previous life I begin to drift off to sleep.
The boy is now on the verge of manhood at 17 years old. As he arrives home from school he goes upstairs. His room is covered with maps full of red and blue pushpins, the blue in the few places he has been and the red in the many places he wants to go. There are also black and white framed photos of people he has met and places he has seen. No longer visible are pictures of his father and things they used to do. He grabs his black Nikon, the first camera he ever got, off the shelf, loads a fresh roll of film and goes back down the stairs. He walks out through the garage and gets on his bike. He rides to downtown and looks around. The sun is still high in the summer sky and glistening of the glass and metal of the buildings surrounding him as he begins to take pictures of the just blossoming magnolias. He thinks about this town, and how much he wants to get away from it - to photograph and travel all around the world. He doesn’t dislike the town, but nothing ever seems to happen here. His whole life the boy has craved change, new things, surprises from the world around him, but here every day seems the same. He gets back on his bike and rides home. When he gets there his father is just arriving home.
“Hey Fath,” the boy say, to his father as he climbs out of his shiny new company car. He hangs up his bike and goes inside. His dad walks in and sits down with his briefcase. “Fath,” the boy says, “I want to apply to the New York institute of photography, I really don’t want to go to Yale like you or Harvard.”
“Well, how do you expect to make any money if you go to photography school? You won’t be able to support yourself. If you think that you are going to move back in to my house as soon as you run out of money, you are sorely mistaken.”
“But I love photography!”
“Photography is a hobby, you can’t try to pretend it’s a job. It is just laziness on your part of not wanting to go to school,” the man says.
“I’m not lazy, I just really don’t think college is for me!” the boy exclaims.
“Photography isn’t a real job; you need to do something practical like studying law or medicine.. You can’t support yourself as a photographer,” the man asserts. “You’re growing up you can’t keep living in a fantasy where you get to do what you want to. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices. I wanted to be a pilot, but it wasn’t practical. My Father knew that and so he didn’t let me go to aviation school, and look at how well off I am now.” The boy goes upstairs a few moments later and lies down on his bed. He looks around the room at all the places there still are to see and realizes that he has to get out of this town. He has known this ever since he was 10 and was riding on a train to visit his grandmother. When he was sitting on that train flying by the graffitied walls and new sight he knew that when he was traveling was when he was truly happy. The boy could stare out the window at the passing scenes with a grin on his face for hours at a time, never looking away so as not to miss a single thing.

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