It is sometimes reassuring to think of all the people who knew him – and he knew a lot of people, some for a second, some for decades – and to know he probably got to tell them a dumb joke, or complimented them in some old-fashioned way, or even just smiled at them as they went by. It’s the jauntiness, the joy of him, that I miss the most now; there are very, very few men who can tell me a dumb joke that will actually make me laugh, & who think it is important enough to try, & he was the first and the last. You getta you papers.
Pops, I miss you. I wish I could pick up the phone so you could tell me every last detail of your most recent conversation with the guy about the extra charge on the cable bill right now.
He found joy in almost everything: in the photos taken around the same time as this one, there’s one of my mother worried about her electric scooter; my nieces are splitting a cotton candy; my sister was probably counting tickets or finding a map or some something for my mother, and my nephew was waiting to see what ride next. Rachel volunteered to go on any ride the kids would go on, even the ones that made everyone else sick and dizzy, and I took pictures. But my dad just watched and smiled: at a toddler taking a step, at his beautiful wife, at the ice cream stand, at this small part of his assembled family. He’d tell a story about a guy he knew growing up in Brooklyn, or about the guy he knew in the service, and the funny thing is, not all of his stories ended happily. A lot of them didn’t. But he just told them, because they were relevant or because something had reminded him of the person or that particular story. They rarely had an ending, or a moral; he wasn’t that kind of guy who is always trying to impart wisdom or experience. In almost the same breath, he could finish a story about not having his number called during the Korean War, and then wonder out loud where to get ice cream.
Stories and ice cream. I thought I’d get to share a lot more of both with him, but I’m glad, at least I managed to snap this photo: you may not be able to see his eyes, but you can’t not see the twinkle in them, too.