My father held the firm belief that kids should be seen and heard.
It was that conviction that afforded me the opportunities to sit in the company of him and his friends as they spewed both truths and lies.
Those storytellers made my young life fun. I’ll never forget them or their teachable moments.
And I’ll never forget the greatest storyteller of them all, my dad, or the last time I saw him.
On the last day I would ever see my dad alive, he wanted to walk with me to school. “What about work?” I asked. He said, “No work today, thought I’ll tag along on the way, catch up on old times, what do you think?”
At thirteen, I didn’t want to appear like some baby who needed his dad to escort him safely to class, but I didn’t want to disappoint him either, so I said, “Sure.”
It was an overcast day and as we walked my father told me tales both old and new. He had my full attention, until we came to the crosswalk at the somewhat busy intersection of Main and Central, one block from my school.
I hate that corner to this day.
“Okay, Dad. I’ll see you later,” I said as the light changed green, hoping he would take the hint to go back home. I didn’t want any of my friends to see him; man, I would have never heard the end of their big baby jokes.
I crossed, dad stayed put. No sooner than my foot hit the other side of the street, my dad called out, “Hey Paul, look!” There he was, doing his best impression of Charlie Chaplin. No doubt he had crossed in that fashion behind me and was now crossing back, doing his Chaplin bit.
“Good one Dad. See you later,” I waved and from the middle of the intersection he waved back. I continued on.
I felt it. That eerie feeling that something’s wrong, that feeling that you can never really explain later. But when I heard the screeching tires and the loud thud, I knew it was my dad.
I was right. He lay on the curb from where we both crossed. I ran and knelt next to him. Blood spilled from his mouth, his legs all twisted underneath him; he tried to pull himself up with his busted arms. I screamed for help. That’s when the driver, who hit my dad, got out his car and ran over to where we were.
With wide blood shot eyes the driver said, “I…I’m sorry kid.” He jumped back into his old green, beat up, rusted car and sped off.
Not sure if I should run back home for my mother, or stay with my dad, I just kept on screaming for help.
“Paul,” my dad said in his usual calm voice. His eyes looked so sleepy. “Now it’s you who have to tell the stories.” He closed his eyes and died right then and there.
The days that followed were tortuous. I didn’t want to go to school ever again, or any place for that matter. I just wanted my dad.
But I couldn’t miss school forever.
So I had to go back.
It was the longest, loneliest walk I ever made, except when we carried my dad’s casket to the grave.
Our dog Lincoln wanted to walk to school with me that morning, but I shooed him back home. That dog never listened to me and that cool morning he didn’t break protocol.
I wish he had.
Central and Main not only served as markers on my route to school, they were now a horrible memory. Needless to say, I crossed with extreme caution. Lincoln, who I had pelted with small stones and shouted “GO HOME!,” appeared in the middle of the intersection just as soon as I reached the other side.
One car came real close to hitting him, another stopped, cursed, then sped around him. When there were no other oncoming cars I stomped my foot and shouted, “LINCOLN, GO HOME!” He bobbed his head up and down and finally started to retreat. That’s when I heard the sound of screeching tires. I stepped off the curb shouting, “LINCOLN, GET OUT OF THE STREET!”
I was too late. The car hit him dead on, killing him on impact. I raced into the intersection. Lincoln was stretched out with his pink tongue hanging out of his mouth.
The driver, the SAME one in the old, rusty green car jumped out and ran over to us. He rubbed his grey beard and with those wide blood shot eyes said, “Oh, boy, sorry kid,” and jumped back in his car and sped off.
I was never going back to school again.
All I had left of Lincoln was the medium size mound in our backyard.
A week later my mother was called to duty on NASA’S Apollo 17. The flight was to be piloted by my mom. She took me aboard; NASA understood.
I never saw more beautiful stars like the ones I saw in space. Mom looked over at me and smiled, happy that after so much pain we now had something to smile about.
That’s when I heard a screeching sound. I remember thinking, “No way!,” as I looked to our left that same crappy green, busted up, rusty car T-boned us on the driver side. The impact tore my mom from her seatbelt and threw her through the windshield. She landed on the tip of a nearby star. I made my way over to her. She was lifeless and now, so was I.
The driver leaped from his car and drifted over to where we were. He ran his hand over the top of his space helmet. “Kid,” he shook a disciplining finger at me, “We got to stop meeting like this, it ain’t healthy.” He floated back to his car and sped off.
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