The other day, a Facebook friend asked a question that was something like, "If you could spend one more day with your dad, what would you do?" There were references to a day fishing, or spending time at a ballgame and, while I wouldn't turn my nose up at a day at the ballpark, I had something else in mind.
When you stand over the coffin and look at that face and those hands, you realize with certainty, that that person is gone. The body, before you for now, but the person, the personality, has gone silent and will never return.
I miss his laugh. Dad would have a funny story to tell and he'd start in, but many times, would get so tickled that by the end you could hardly understand him between the laughing and gasping.
I'm not sure what got us laughing in the picture on the right, but we both are clearly enjoying ourselves. And it's obvious there was no reason for me not to let go - I was wearing plastic pants.
Dad would spend time trying to teach me to play some baseball. Here, I crushed one of his offerings, at least that's the way I remember it. I always imagined that the white dot near the building was the ball. Now I just think it's a white dot. Dad's dad had been a coach, a teacher, and a principal and so I think my dad is just doing a little coaching right here. Granddad had older kids to work with, though.
Here's some guys Granddad worked with. Inmates at Algoa Farm in Jefferson City. In this photo from 1944, Granddad is standing in the back on the left. These young men had been incarcerated by the state of Missouri and sent to the prison farm at Algoa. Granddad was the boxing coach there for a time. In 1950, a guy who'd robbed a gas station in St. Louis showed up at Algoa and learned to box there, but there is no indication that Sonny Liston ever crossed paths with my granddad.
Back to the opening question: If I could have one more day with Granddad, I think I'd like to know about teaching boxing in prison. Wouldn't you?
But now that I look again, you can see by the shadows that the sun was in the west when the picture was taken. So I don't know where we were going.
In the end, we helped Dad with various things as age and life and illness took their toll. For his sake you'd never ask, but even one of those days would be a joy for me to re-live.
Happy Father's Day.