Friday, May 2, 2014

Story Man

Today is my dad's birthday. In fact, he also died on this day, six years ago, after living eighteen months in hospice care when doctors had given him a mere two weeks. Even hampered by a serious cardiac condition, he loved life enough that he really didn't want to let it go.

We were grateful to have those extra months, but I still miss him terribly. He and I shared a special bond from my earliest years, a bond of words and stories. He was a verbal guy, with the gift of gab despite being Jewish rather than Irish. He could charm anyone with his conversation. (He also had the ability to sound like an expert on any topic, even if he knew almost nothing. I've got that talent, too!) He dug into his fertile imagination to create clever songs and wild tales for me and my siblings. Ghost stories. Monster stories. Mysteries and tales of derring do. We'd camp out in the back yard, toast marshmallows around the fire, and he'd keep us enthralled with his lively narration.

He and my mom helped make me the voracious reader that I am. During my first three years, he read to me. By the time I was four, he was teaching me to ferret out the stories for myself. I still remember my jubilation the first time I made it all the way through "Dick and Jane" on my own.

We were mutual fans of Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft and Tolkein. It was always easy to buy him presents for his birthday or for Christmas. He loved books, and I knew exactly what he'd enjoy. Meanwhile, my treasured volumes of Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe were all gifts from him to me.

He read my poems, my term papers, even my dissertation. But I never shared my erotic stories. That was one area where there were barriers between us. I always had the feeling that sex made him a bit uncomfortable. I was so tempted to give him an autographed copy of my first novel, but I was worried that his pride would be tempered with embarrassment.

It's too late now. However, I know that I have him to thank, at least partly, for my career as an author. I grew up surrounded by books, immersed in stories and rhymes. I know that's why, now, I never worry much about grammar or spelling, and I can trust my intuitions about language.

When my brother asked me to contribute to Dad's funeral, I wrote a poem. I didn't read it, though - my brother thought it was too personal, and maybe too flippant, that people listening wouldn't understand. So I wrote more standard eulogy instead. Still, today, I want to share that bit of blank verse. Even though it's full of references that won't mean anything to most of you, I hope you'll catch the spirit of the piece.

To My Father - May 4, 2008

You always knew 
Where to find the magic:
Under the rock
Behind the McNabbs',
Prowling the streets 
Of haunted Arkham,
Futures revealed 
By palpating pineapples,
Fabulous worlds
In a drop of pond scum.

You were the wizard
Unlocking secrets:
Rituals
Of the iron lantern,
Ancient prophecies
(Pip forty nine),
Timeless truths
Of the Austrian master.

Joy was your gift.
You jitterbugged
Through your years and days
To the sound of a sax,
Sailing, soaring,
Always in tune,
Leaving a trail
Of music behind you.

The road goes on
And you must follow
Wherever it leads,
With your hoary beard
And your sorcerer's staff
And your child-blue eyes
Brimming with wonder
To find new magic.

****

I miss you, Story Man. Happy Birthday.

4 comments:

H K Carlton said...

A beautiful tribute, Lisabet.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks, H.K....

Carmen Stefanescu said...

A touching remembrance. May God, Universe or whatever governs our lives rest him in peace! I'm sure he's proud of your accomplishments.

Cheyenne Blue said...

A lovely post, Lisabet. Your father sounded like a wonderful man, and it sounds like we have him to thank in part for nurturing your writing talent. Thank you too for sharing the poem.

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