My dad used to go get doughnuts before I woke up on the weekends. When I walked sleepily into the kitchen and found them there, my eyes would grow wide with wonder.
“Where did they come from?!” I would ask, peering into the big flat box.
“A bear on a motorcycle brought them!” he would tell me, feigning surprise.
“Really?” I’d ask.
“Really.” he’d say. His eyes would sparkle, but I’d believe him.
As I grew older, I began to poke holes in his story.
How could a bear possibly know how much I loved the little round cinnamon crumb cake? I had never talked to the bear, but that doughnut was always in the box.
How could a bear possibly carry the doughnuts and ride a motorcycle? Did he have a special rack on the back just for strapping in pastries? That seemed unlikely. Bears were surely too cool for a ride with a rack.
Why did I never hear the motorcycle or see it out the window? My dad assured me “it was magic, of course, and could never be seen by a child.” Hmmm.
Where did the bear carry his money? Did he have a special pocket for keeping the change he took into the doughnut shop? And why did the shopkeeper never shoo him out? He was, after all, a bear.
When my suspicions were finally confirmed, I had lost some interest in the magic of fairy tales. I knew Dad was the bear, Santa and the Tooth Fairy all rolled into one. (Mom is the Easter Bunny, but that’s another post.)
In my teens, I was a far more skeptical audience for my father’s fables, and yet, he never failed to tell them. He was an educated man who knew a little bit of everything and he could tell you the truth of it all, but he delighted in the designing of elaborate and fanciful stories all his own.
After I moved away from home, my dad would sometimes call me and leave long complicated tales of this or that on my answering machine. He would disguise his voice and pretend to be some important businessman with a message I just had to hear. I sometimes laughed and sometimes rolled my eyes and I think he knew that, but he kept on doing it.
Now that my dad is gone, I wish I could listen to my messages and find him there again. I miss his commitment to whimsy.
My mom used to say she wanted just one more day with dad, just one more chance to talk about things. I guess I’d like that day too. If I got it, I don’t think I’d bother with unfinished business. I wouldn’t ask him what he thought of me or tell him what I thought of him. I wouldn’t try to right any wrongs or smooth any wrinkles. No. None of that.
If I could see my dad again, I think I’d just buy us some doughnuts and ask him for a story.
Becky, your dad sounds like a wonderful, funny man! I wish I had known him!!
I wish you had too!
I knew him, I loved him, I miss him and this sounds just like him. I can picture him trying to keep a straight face. Treasure your memories!!!!!
I do. I really do! I’m glad that you do too. He would love that!
I think I really only confronted your Dad on three, maybe four, occasions other than the many times I’d say hi for a minute and then leave. He left a huge impression on me, nonetheless, because of his erudition and presence (I remember sitting at the dinner table with your family one night, thinking I was all that until I recognized the peril I was in were I to pronounce on anything other than, say, rock-n-roll drumming!). The spirit of your home was to me a model of Americana — the pictures in your hallway, the way you kids spoke of your grandparents, the history of your family in Kentucky (and Indiana or Illiinois?). His love and knowledge of opera was profound, and his collection included things other than opera. For instance, on one rainy day, KFSD played Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite — the perfect piece for that sort of weather. The next weekend I asked Bill if your Dad happened to have it because it really knocked me out. He did, and was more than eager to lend it to me. Though I’m sure he knew the dolt I was, he was always fairly cool to me (the hip sort of cool, that is), maybe because he knew that I knew he was a model — a paradigm, even for punks like me visiting your home. I once got a peek (by accident) into your folks’ bedroom, and what stuck was the number of books stacked around the room. I’m happy to say that our home has been congested with books for close to 23 years, and growing.
I’m actually touched and encouraged in a sort of silly way about your story of him buying doughnuts, because one of the lighter, and yet, homier things I enjoyed doing over the years when the kids were younger (or even now when John’s visiting from LA) was to buy doughnuts on Saturday mornings before they woke up.
Bob, I hope my dad is reading your comments from wherever he is. I think he knew how inspired you were by music and I’m certain that pleased him greatly, but I’ll bet he’d love to know that you are also a bear on a motorcycle. Thank you for telling me all this. I’m listening to that Prokofiev piece for the first time ever as I write this. Wow – very interesting music! The third section for the entrance of The Enemy God, Chuzhbog, is absolutely perilous and crazy!
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