I miss him today. Truth is, I miss him most every day, but when the days go short and there is more darkness around, I think of him more often. I have had more than twenty years to manage my grief, but when I look out the window into the black, I remember the light that was my father.
To be fair, it should be noted from the very beginning that my father was no saint. He made mistakes and errors in judgement that I can see clearly now that I am managing my own adult path and assuming parental chores that he once tumbled through. He gets all kinds of easy accolades because he is gone. I can remember those years before I got married and moved to California, feeling responsible for his aimless wandering after he left my mother. I took the naive stance that I could somehow affect his trajectory by going out to dinner with him on a regular basis and asking over and over where he felt his life was taking him. I never got a straight answer. He was lost in ways that I can only now begin to comprehend.
All that being said, I couldn't have asked for a better dad when I was a kid. My mom might have wished for a more consistent and thoughtful source of authority, but the laughs and warmth I felt in my house as a child was the envy of my friends. I have tried to straddle the line a little as a grownup parent of a son, being the "bad cop" in as many situations as necessary and keeping it light whenever possible.
It is a crying shame that my son never got to meet his namesake. I want to believe that they would have gotten along, but then again I can't remember anyone my father couldn't cozy up to. He was that kind of guy. I want to believe that all those years of hanging around with my dad allowed me to send just a taste of what the pater familas was like. The songs and stories he dragged along with him into the warehouse of my mind get repeated now and then, along with the adventures of my father and his brave family of five, on endless station wagon road trips and long summer afternoons at the cabin sawing wood for the fire that ended on the front porch with a vodka and tonic or down at the horseshoe pit where he would work on his technique in hopes of one day besting Uncle Marvin.
One of the last things I shared with my father was a screenplay I wrote. One hundred twenty-three pages of my best attempt at romantic comedy. He read it with the appreciative eyes of a father who was amazed at the things his kids could do. He was a fan. It could have been one hundred twenty-three pages of typing exercises, and he would have been awestruck.
That's when he would call me "Davy."
Nobody else did that. And neither did he until I turned twenty-one, and suddenly I got this new, more affectionate variation on my name. It bothered me at the time, because I was yearning to break free of the bounds of youth. I understand now why my father was so anxious to have me remain a child. His child. It all happens so fast.
It's dark again. And I miss him.