Then, at the end of the graduation, Dad said, "Well, now we've got another graduation in two years." (My nephew)
"And another one in 18," I said. (Baby B)
He laughed and shook his head. "I don't know about that one, son. Don't know if I'll make it that far."
I squeezed his shoulder. "You never know, Pop. You beat the devil three times already, and God hasn't called you home yet."
Special Agent "Papa" Grossman was the nurturing father my sister and I never had, and a good and devoted husband to my mother. He came into our lives in the late 70s and his bachelor pad showed it – revealing black velvet paintings and a faux leopard skin bean bag chair are what I remember the most.
Hard-working and the strong, silent type, Dad was direct when needed (or pressed!) and one of the nuttiest men you could ever meet.
Crazy nutty. Lovable goofball silly crazy nutty. And the teller of bad, off-color jokes (that still make you laugh). And the longest story teller of all time. Snoozer.
Old-time favorite Mom saying, "Dick, get to the point."
And he was sensitive. Most men of his generation who were also police officers don't do the emotive thing. Dad also has three daughters from a previous marriage, so the estrogen sea seeped into his brain as it did mine.
For better or for worse. Definitely for the better since he adopted us and we took his name. Many, many good years and memories with that man. I moved away to college and missed being around him.
In 1994 Dad had a stroke that was supposed to have completely debilitated him. It didn't.
In 2002 Dad got very ill with pneumonia and was sick with a lung infection for months. It was supposed to kill him. It didn't.
In 2007 Dad's gall bladder turned poisonous and he was sick for weeks. It was supposed to kill him. It didn't.
You beat the devil three times already, and God hasn't called you home yet.
I can't wait for you to hold Baby B, Pop. Just hold off on the bad jokes. You may make it to that graduation yet.
Happy Father's Day. I love you.
As If We Were One
Copyright 2008 Kevin W. Grossman
The smell of sage and oak is strong and the mountain peaks look like the heads of buried dinosaurs dipped in white ash.
It's Father's Day. I'm up at the lake on my father's boat for a lazy day of fishing, but we're not catching anything except sunburns. I'm drinking cold beer and my father's drinking bourbon and water on the rocks. We share bologna sandwiches and greasy potato chips, and when he says something funny, I laugh too hard, spitting up half-chewed food soaked in beer. The scar above his lip glints like glass in sunlight. He tells me dirty jokes, cop stories, anecdotal life lessons—as if these are the male incantations I must remember moving forward; words passed from father to son in an effort to survive a chaotic world without reason, ruled by a benevolent god.
We're all strangers dying at each other's feet, he says suddenly.
I nod and open another beer, but I'm not sure what he's talking about.
But it's as if we were one, and we don't even know it, he adds.
A thunderstorm hits the lake, backslapping the boat like an angry woman. The sky turns from blue to gray to black. Thunder booms overhead. The air smells of antiseptic. A lightning bolt strikes the bow. I drop the fishing pole in the water. It sinks quickly—like a dart shooting towards some abysmal target. There's no time to count—no in between; the storm is upon us—swallowing us whole. The lake's surface thrashes with seizures. My father screams at me—something about life jackets. I scan the deck of the boat. I see nothing but churning froth spilling over the sides like a pot of boiling water. He tries to throw me a rope. I miss it, losing my balance. I fall overboard—sinking fast like a lead weight at the end of fragile, ten-pound test.
I'm drifting downward. I can't move my arms or legs. Cold water fills my lungs. I convulse. I see my father's feet floating before my eyes—then darkness.
I wake up gasping for air. The nurse asks if I'm all right. I shake my head because I can't catch my breath. I'm sitting in a gray chair at the foot of a gray hospital bed in a gray room. Plastic tubes connect bags of clear liquid to my father's arms. Oxygen flows through the tubes in his nose. The monitor glows green and beeps erratically. His pneumonia is worse. His fever won't go down. His breathing treatments are every hour.
He coughs violently. The force causes his legs and upper body to jump. He cries out and grips the side of his ribcage as if he's being stabbed repeatedly. His face changes from red to blue to black. His arms thrash about, grabbing at the sheets as if he's about to fall.
I double over in my chair, heart imploding.