He was a pied piper, a magician, an inventor, a salesman par excellence, a teller of wondrous tales, a gardener, a carpenter, a dreamer, an entertainer. He was a farmer whose crops failed three years in a row the first was too dry; the second year the rains came with the harvest and the harvest rotted in the mud; the third year a heavy frost left the corn limp and useless just days before the ears matured. I saw him turn away from the bedroom window that September morning, the life and color draining from his face, his shoulder sag' against the wall. I thought he was crying. But he didn't cry. He went into town and got a job "to make ends meet," and to pay off the debts. Mothers cry when they are feeling bad. But fathers don't cry.
My happiest, most memorable Christmas, my seventh, was one of those years on the farm. We had no money, only food from our orchard, our garden, our farmyard, wood from our woodlot and a comfortable house.
For days, my father was busy building "nests for the chickens", he told me. On Christmas morning, under the tree, stood a desk just my size, with a top that opened up to hold my books and papers. It was smooth and satiny to the touch. It was MY desk. My mother had made a swinging bassinet on the frame he had built, and a wardrobe for my comfortable old. doll. We all laughed at 'the funny chicken nests that turned by magic into a desk on Christmas Eve,. I went to sleep that night with one hand - on m new desk and the other rocking my doll in her new bassinet. Fathers and mothers make wonderful things and they don't, need money to make a Christmas.
When I had been pouting over-long about some rebuff or disappointment, he would point to my left ear and say, "I see a smile starting right there." I would screw my face up and say to myself that I would not laugh this time. "Now," he would say, "it is coming, right there across your cheek. Yes, it's to the corner of you mouth and now I see it creeping, creeping along" By that time it had reached my mouth and we all were laughing. Fathers are fun and they can make you laugh.
My father could whistle and talk without moving his lips, ,and when I was very small I would look everywhere in the room trying to see "Who Is it?" He could make balls and handkerchiefs and cards appear from nowhere, then disappear. Later he taught me how to "disappear" from a magic cabinet he had built, so I became a part of his magic. His repertoire of tricks and sleight-of-hand delighted children and adults, at parties, church bazaars and "benefits." He never charged a fee for the 'pleasure he" gave. Fathers are magical.
I- learned to walk by holding onto any, part of my dog, Dash, which I could reach. When, in my tenth year, she died, I cried inconsolably.
Although he had acted from the kindest of intentions, he blamed himself for being in part responsible for, her final illness. He comforted and held me, saying in many ways that he grieved, too. He, helped me bury her in a grassy fencecorner under an apple tree of my, choosing., Fathers care when you hurt and they love, you. But they don't cry.
After we moved to the city, he would come home sometimes with a lot of money and sometimes with no money or very little. On those days my mother would cry or be angry. It was only then that I began to link no money at the end of a day of work, a strange smell, my father going straight to bed and any mother crying or being angry and saying strange things. My father "drank." "Drinking is a disgrace."
In my teens I heard my father say that once upon a time he loved to dance. "I could dance," he would say ,,with a shine in his eyes I had never seen,' "I could dance 'eight' nights a week and never feel tired!" I never say him dance. In that magical eye of fantasy I could see him dancing in his shiny dancing shoes, flying, singing with his whole self, the way he told it. But I never' saw him dance. He married into a family which believed with their whole hearts that dancing is sinful. He tried, all of his life, to do what was right, for the woman he had married, because he had -loved her.
But' he died a little every year, and I know now at least a part of why he "drank." Fathers would like sometimes to fly to the outer rims of the world. But fathers must do what they are expected to do.
Every year now I prize him more. He, gave me great riches which I carry in my being. His, soft-spoken, fun-loving, dancing, gentle, "ineffectual" self, who thought of himself as a failure, was a man: who did not gain, but ,was, in the heritage he left me, success.
I hope, somewhere, Elden Cooper, you , hear 'me and believe. Fathers are for loving; if you can.