Thinking about my Dad and Newburyport

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June and Dad, April 10, 2016

I wrote something for my Dad . . . about my Dad . . . after he passed away in January.  I’ve been back to Newburyport twice since, and this last time involved saying goodbye to Newburyport as my home.  It hasn’t been my true home in a long time . . . my home is here, in New York City.  But this new home emerged without the old home ceasing to exist.  And now that the old home’s days are numbered, I reminisce about things I will miss (jogging on High Street) and things I won’t (winter that persists into April).  My Mom’s new home will be better in every way for her, and so, this new chapter is right and good.  But all this makes me want to marinate in that world of memories, memories of my Dad and memories of Newburyport.  To honor all of it as I say goodbye.

A Poem for Dad

I’ve been playing with the ratio of cream to coffee this week

trying to replicate the color of the coffee I’d sip, sitting on Dad’s lap

early in the morning

after I tricked him by sneaking a squeaky mouse toy into his back pocket

his bellows of surprise would ring out when he sat down

part of the game we played day after day when I was 5.

 

He taught me how to skate,

And how to peel an apple in one motion so the entire peel would fall to the ground

and form the shape of a letter.

Usually an S, sometimes a U, or an M;

Always delightful anticipation.

 

Long walks on the Big Wheel to Aunt Charlotte’s on Wednesday afternoons.

Long drives to skating lessons and then to summer camp.

Long talks about history and growing up.

We agreed 4th grade was a significant leap from 3rd.

 

Afternoons in the office on Liberty Street

playing with the Check Machine and other antiques.

Saturday night walks from Grammie’s to get candy

and twice, to get a pet cat.

 

He sat in the car during Friday afternoon piano lessons,

in the bleachers during Thursday night figure skating

and with me in a booth right after, for Conehead Sundaes at Friendly’s.

And the snow I volunteered to shovel for community service? He did it, before I woke up.

 

In high school Dad sustained my pack-a-day sugarless gum habit

and refused my request to drop me off 3 – 5 blocks away from school.

Perhaps because we were in the “new car”,

the 1985 black Chevy Monte Carlo with red stripes,

as opposed to the “old car”, the 1981 black Chevy Monte Carlo with red stripes.

 

A constant stream of coffee, jolly ranchers, and giant blueberry muffins fueled his

marathon leaf-raking sessions.

He had a wallet full of quotes

and a closet full of personal affects he’d proudly announce were 50 years old.

Like the old suitcase I sneered at as an adolescent,

the same suitcase the hipsters in New York City gazed at with longing during a recent

visit.

 

Six years ago, in New York City he left the hotel and made his way to Rockefeller Center,

on foot,

asking strangers for directions.

We rode the subway together to Brooklyn.

 

“No vacancies!” he’d holler, when relatives would pull into the driveway for a visit.

“Be Brave”, he said, when removing the splinter from my heel at age 7.

“You have a good brain,” he said enough times to convince me I did, even during those

times in life when we convince ourselves we don’t.

Then, 8 years ago, “Go forth and live the life you always wanted,” he said, quoting

Emerson.

And last July, sitting in the car, parked outside of the Starbucks on Liberty Street,

“You have a beautiful girl, and you’ll have a beautiful boy, but I won’t meet

him.”

That was when we said goodbye.

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