****I wrote this piece in February of 2004. My son lost his father to cancer when he was just three years old. This is written in his voice.
It came knocking on our door one sweltering August day. I wish that he had never answered the door. I was just six months old, his first child, a son. There would be so many things for us to do together. We would walk hand in hand to the park, where I would beg him to push me on the swing “just one more time.” We would go to McDonald’s and eat french fries and drink chocolate milk shakes, eschewing the hamburgers-he for religious reasons, me because mom is a vegetarian.
In the summertime, we would play a game of catch in the backyard, or watch the pros play at the stadium downtown. We would take a family vacation to the place where Mickey lives, or travel east to the state of his birth. We would visit Brooklyn, Long Island and take in the sights and sounds of the city that never sleeps. In the wintertime, we would dare to take on the white, icy hills on our two-man sled. We would shriek as we raced to the bottom, snow spraying our faces. Afterwards, I would help him shovel the driveway, and then together we would build a man of snow.
In the evenings and on weekends, we would scour his bottomless CD collection and make our selections. We would turn up the stereo real loud and sing and dance to the music of his youth-Chuck Berry, Elvis and The Beatles. He would know all of the words. (I’ve been told that he could have been a winning contestant on Name That Tune, if such a show had existed in the late 1990’s.) At bedtime, he would read to me, sharing his passion for the printed word. In the early years, we would read Winnie-the-Pooh and Dr. Seuss and later, The Hardy Boys and Harry Potter.
He would teach me how to ride a bike, chasing after me down the street yelling, “Keep on pedaling.” We would watch TV together-The Discovery channel, Animal Planet and ESPN-lying like lumps on the sofa, feet-to-feet. We would experience “my firsts” together-first day of school, first visit from the tooth fairy, first goal at soccer, first kiss. He would be proud of me in my cap and gown. I would be valedictorian, sharing with everyone the values he instilled in me. I would dedicate my speech to him. And there would be more experiences to share-my college years, my post-graduate employment, my wedding, his grandchildren. We would be closer than he and his father had been. For him, that would be his most fulfilling achievement as a parent.
Sadly, this was not to be. If only he had pretended that he hadn’t heard the knock, you know how you do when someone is selling something you don’t want. If only he hadn’t opened the door and unknowingly let cancer in. We would have had a lifetime together, instead of just one thousand, three hundred and thirteen days.
I am so proud of you, my friend.
Joan, that was beautiful.