He winces with each step, his feet twisted and swollen, a painful reminder of boyhood fences leapt and telephone poles climbed, of tennis matches played and fairways strolled, of miles of laps to and fro getting this man’s beer and that lady’s club soda.His mind — a safe deposit box in years past, amazing others with the ability to remember birth dates even birth hours of each family member, even distant ones — now takes a beat, maybe two, before recall.
He sometimes looks at you from the side, a macular hole in one eye forcing him to rely on vision along his periphery. A universe away from, “No, son, use your 7-iron. It’s closer than you think.”
The racquet was sold long ago in a rummage sale when the foot pain became too severe to play. These days he can only watch golf on TV, rooting for D.A. Points — the hometown kid turned PGA pro — while his own clubs gather dust in a corner of the garage.
But he walks, pain be damned. A mile today. Maybe two tomorrow.
The lion still roars.
I’ve watched you through the years, Pop. The successes. The failures, too.
I saw you, as Kipling wrote, “watch the things you gave your life to broken, and stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.” Your refusal to be bested by setbacks an inspiration to me.
I remember the day I tested my junior high strength against the old man’s. “C’mon, Dad, let’s arm wrestle.” You knew the outcome but let me struggle with gritted teeth for several moments before pinning me. In this I learned determination and possibilities.
I saw you mix with people in a crowd, making people laugh and feel welcome and at ease. I watched. “I want to have that effect on people,” I thought. Perhaps that explains my penchant for theatre. When I mount the stage, I’m just a son seeking to entertain people like he saw his Dad do a thousand times before.
Though the miles separate us, I’m still watching, Dad. And learning.
I love you, Pop. Happy Fathers Day.
“Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
P.S. Sorry for all the gifts of Hai Karate on Father’s Day when I was young. You clearly deserved Aqua Velva, at least.