Time Out…

It was a flying swing-sort of thing, but I didn’t catch the name. Hell, I didn’t catch a lot of stuff on that day.

But it was a perfect day none the less. True, Mother Nature tried to bring us down, with some skies initially grey. And a certain other also tried to bring me down. But even her best efforts at pissery melted painlessly away, under the sun and the Love of the day.

The sun, the Love, and the perfection were all experienced by myself, my three, plus a friend of Hannah’s, at a little 5 & Dime theme park up my way called Fantasy Island. Now if you’re anything like me, you can NOT go to this park without hoping, “Maybe this time. Maybe this time Mr. Rourke will be waiting for me, wearing white and looking drop-dead Mexican sexy, as he welcomes me to his drop-dead-not-Mexican-but-just-as-sexy island, granting me a wish.” As you might have guessed, this visit did no more to yield that desire becoming a reality than any of the other visits, but as the day strolled itself along, this time I found that it didn’t really matter too much at all.

It was all good, and every moment was cherished, me with them, and they with me. No longer little children – like the last time we had gone – they’d grown now, matured, and the “kiddie rides” took on a whole new meaning. A new flavor. Obviously, the ones that required you to be 4′ or under were passed by altogether this time (me, being dragged by the three plus one away from the Lil’ Boat Merry-Go-Round. Can you imagine? I mean, c’mon! They use REAL water for God’s sake! That ride kicks ASS!) But we still all smiled like idiots, as we rode down the Giant Slide, potato sack under butt. We still all pretended to have zombie and/or cyborg horses (I mean, they DO all have posts struck straight through them, after all) on the carousel. And we all – every last one – pretended that bumper cars were the vehicles used exclusively by average older Americans, in the effort of learning how to drive.

We enjoyed the Crazy Mouse (a roller coaster best described as being engineered by the boys from Devo, while being high on paint thinner), and the ferris wheel, but it was that damned flying swing-sort of thing that would eventually provide me with the inspiration (FINALLY!) for this particular post.

Picture 7

You see, the ride is simple. A swing. That goes in a circle. No big deal, right? Right, unless you realize that this particular swing is about 800 gazillion feet up in the air. I went only because I told myself – as I was herding the three plus one into the car – that this trip, I would “Just. Let. Go.” I would live, instead of worrying about dying. I would be me, instead of being scared about being yelled at by someone because I was being me. So when the kids said “let’s go,” I swallowed my trepidation, and got on the swing.

And I loved it. Like, “Jesus pulling on my non-existent hair just so it could blow in the wind one more time” loved it. The first time I went with Hannah’s friend. Which was perfect, because she has no reason to love me, yet still she apparently does (she calls me “Grand Pee,” only after she decided that “Dr. Pee Wee” was too formal). The second time I went with Ian. Which was perfect because, well, because he’s Ian. And the last time I went with, well…

He told me his name on the flying swing-sort of thing, but I didn’t catch it. Hell, I didn’t catch a lot of stuff on that day.

You see, with this ride, they always need exactly an even number of riders to lift off. And this time, he and I were both odd men out. So we sat together.

He was O.G. (do they still say that?), but one of the mentally handicapped variety (do they still say that?) A good kid, but I must admit, a bit creepy on the surface as well. Creepy as in, it wasn’t until we reached the 800 gazillion feet range that I realized, only a metal bar and a plastic seat were keeping me alive. But I swallowed a second helping of trepidation, ignored old tendencies and old fears about such things, and just spoke to the kid.

Now to be sure, we will not be pen pals anytime soon, but we did both come to realize that flying is a pretty danged cool power to have, and if God was willing, we would both ask for it. I also came to understand that even “a bit creepy on the surface” people just want to be talked to, and treated with basic human respect, in order to be happy.

The ride ended, and the kid left. And that was that.

I still don’t know his name, but I will always remember the one stage in our “journey” – after he had pointed out his family members in the adjacent swings – where I motioned across the expanse of sky to another swing, and noting the (2) beautiful young men who sat within (both having had the good sense to remove their shoes before the ride began), being able to say to my momentary friend, “those are my two boys. I love them.”

I went to Fantasy Island to spend some time with my children. But I left with the realization that they weren’t my children, they were now their own. And they had decided to come to the same park for the sole purpose of spending time with me. And I remembered just how blessed I was, and am, to have that sort of Love in my life.

Thank God for grey skies that become blue.

Thank God for icy tones that melt painlessly away.

And thank Him as well, for those nameless, yet liberating flying swing-sort of things.

Now, if He would only see Himself to just allowing for taller folk to be able to ride the Lil’ Boat Merry-Go-Round…

•••

Sorry, just one more sad post (promise!)

Listen, he wasn’t the “Best Dad Ever,” and quite frankly, I hate when people say that at funerals. There was only ever one Best Dad Ever, and he was all but forgotten the moment his wife went ahead and invented the rosary.

So, he wasn’t the best ever, but he was mine. And now he’s not. Well, not “not,” but he is gone. Absent if you will. His likeness still sits there in the 11″ X 16″ budget-friendly (read: plexi face and plastic trim) frame that’s nestled in the corner of my bedroom. Sitting next to his wife with his back towards me, her arm draped over him as they sat one sunny day far and long ago, waiting with us for the Fantasy Island Wild West Show to begin.

At the time my three were much younger, and jacked up at the prospect that they would very soon be jacked up on the sugar from the cotton candy, which was promised to follow the show. They were jacked even further in the knowledge that with the show, they were about to experience some really real and honest-to-gosh shoot ’em up cowboy action, complete with guns a-blazing, fists a-flying and bad guys a-plenty being thrown from the roof of the local saloon.

Trust me, the show lived up to its reputation. The kids even received “honorary deputy” badges afterwards. Dad and I did not. Dad wasn’t upset by that, but I was.

The aforementioned picture was captured by C of course, as – had I captured it – it never would have become the moment it did. In it, they’re sitting and talking. About what, I’ve no idea. About what, I’m sure inconsequential. None of that matters now, does it? They talked, C captured the moment, the Wild West Show went on as scheduled. The picture was later 3 X 5ishly printed and placed on their fridge, where it has sat ever since, except for that one time I stole it in order to scan it.

We all enjoyed ourselves, and we can all regale in the experience today. Well, all but one of us. Because he’s gone, but that’s OK. For, like k~’s grandmother saying that she would be in a better place when she passed, I feel that dad is as well. Besides, he may be gone, but he’s not forgotten. And no matter how much he wished that he were, he won’t be. His impact on life was no less than the others who have left me this year. He counted. He counts still. He made a life that didn’t exist before him, a life that couldn’t exist without him.

So C sleeps, and I lie here staring at that damned picture, framed in cheap plastic. And I miss him again. Miss the pride he would’ve felt in knowing of our family expansion. Miss the advice he could have provided me in this endeavor. Miss just hearing his voice say “I’ll remember that!” every time I caught him with a verbal jab. I used to always respond with “no, no you won’t,” and he never did. I miss him; the man, the mentor, the bastard, the dad that I knew, the dad that I did love, and the dad that I still do.

Could I get rid of that picture, and save me some grief? I suppose I could. It’s only with me because it was a bum print intended to be given to my mom (don’t worry, she has the good copy) at dad’s funeral. But I don’t want to. I like being able to see him as I once did. Draped in mom’s arm, talking about something inconsequential before the start of the Wild West Show at Fantasy Island. I like being able to remember my dad as he was. As he will hopefully again someday be, and as I will hopefully again someday be able to see.

•••

So in reading back through this (you still can’t believe I actually proof-read these, can you?), I suppose that in the end it wasn’t such a sad post after all. Odd, considering the fact that I was literally bawling like a two year old who had just spilt their ice cream over a sewer grate the night I originally wrote it down. Possibly as my friend suggested, while I’ll never get over dad’s passing, maybe I am getting used to it. I hope so, almost as much as I hope that someday we’ll meet again he and I, some sunny day.