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.