The Fathers We Remember

Facebook tells a story about the fathers we remember and the fathers we miss.

Pictures of men in uniform and captions that name dad as their favorite vet or say this is dad in Vietnam, Korea or WWII fill my feed on this Veteran’s Day.

I look at them, and sometimes like the photo because it is not my place to say more about men I never met, but in some cases wish I had.

We’re members of a club most of us didn’t want to join and can never get out of.

The feed isn’t just pictures of fathers as it also includes photos, videos and news about the craziest fires in California I can remember.

Burning bushes are consumed as are houses and intermixed are pictures of the animals owners didn’t have time to load into trailers or cars.

There are horses running fleeing the flames and comments from people who say they can help rescue them.

They remind me of that summer night in ’85 when I watched the hills of Ojai explode and saw bus after bus filled with the younger kids flee the same fire the horses did.

Since there wasn’t room for us in the buses they stuck us in the back of US Forestry vehicles and drove us to a local high school.

More than 30 years later I can still see the flames, feel the hot wind and hear the sirens. I’ll never forget.

The Sound Of Silence Deafens Us

My daughter’s AP Human Geography class is doing some sort of assignment on religion so she asks me to review the information it provides on Jewish beliefs.

Her experiences here in Texas are so different from my high school days.

There were so many Jewish kids at my high school that when the high holidays came our collective absences would virtually shut the school down.

But my daughter is often the only Jewish kid in class and in some ways seen as someone who is exotic.  She says it hasn’t been a problem for her and unless it becomes one I won’t ever suggest there is an issue.

After I finish reading what the textbook says about our beliefs I look at her and kind of do a body shimmy.

“Somebody tried to cram too much into a space that is too small so I don’t know that I agree with it all. ”

I launch into an explanation and that fire from ’85 shows up inside my head because I remember people praying and the discussion we had later about what we believe and why.

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem talking about the Babylonians/Romans sacking the city and destroying the Temple we all hear the flames of history because we just fled from them.

My daughter doesn’t have time for me to share all I hear and see now so I try to provide a simple story, beginning, middle and end but am frustrated because I feel like it is missing so much.

*****

Flashback to a different time when my father and I arguing about things fathers and sons argue about.

I tell him how I argued with one of the rabbis about the meaning of a prayer or rather why it didn’t have meaning to me and how I refused to speak.

Flashback to a later moment in time when dad and I are talking about the importance of questioning what doesn’t make sense but also of having a deep enough education to have a real debate.

“Joshua, very few people will use facts or are educated enough to use them to support their position. They never got beyond Algebra but think they can throw Calculus at you to make a point. If you try to point out the fallacy they’ll tell you that you are wrong not even knowing they’re using the wrong equations.”

*****

The conversation with my daughter makes me think of picking up the phone to call dad because he’d appreciate it.

There are a million other things to tell him and lots of questions to ask.

I always knew I would have more and that I couldn’t possibly ask all I had to know about before he was gone, but I never knew so many would come so soon.

Never knew a lot of things, but I know from multiple conversations with other that it is not just me, the silence deafens us.

The Same Words Again

One of my kids or maybe it is both of them complains about me using the same words again and I tell them I often use the same quotes in my writing over and over and over and over and over.

“I get it dad.”

“Your understanding of the world changes as you grow and have different experiences. Sometimes you’re surprised by how those changes impact your perspective. You may do things you never thought you would because of it.”

Sometimes I look at these blog posts or Facebook status updates and catch typos that make my head spin.

They’re foolish mistakes that make me look sloppy and foolish and/or change the meaning of the sentence or paragraph they sit in.

Sometimes I think about proofing these posts twice so I put out clean copy but I rarely do because I want the raw honesty to be obvious.

It is like finding the one that got away and intentionally not telling him/her that you made a big mistake not trying to figure out if they were or are who you should spend time with.

You demean and diminish what could be by polishing the character out of the art you create.

*****

Not long ago I heard the bells ring again followed by a familiar click on the old internal stove that made a tiny flame into something a little bit larger.

It made me stop in place and cock my head to the side the way dogs do when they hear a funny noise.

I froze in place and tried to confirm it wasn’t imagination.

The pictures on Facebook make me wonder how many others stopped in place and turned inwards to walk towards the echoes of the voices of men who no longer walk the earth in the traditional manner.

I suspect more than a few.

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