Soaring Beyond the Sky
On a clear summer night when I was a child, my dad taught me about the stars. We laid on an old blanket in the front yard as he pointed to the sky. "Look, there's the Big Dipper, and there's the bright North Star; it's part of the Little Dipper." I could only see the twinkling stars. "Just connect the dots," he said. "Now close your eyes and make a wish." I closed my eyes and wished that I could see what he was seeing.
Although I couldn't connect the dots that night, I have fond memories of lying on the ground below the pageantry of sky. Probably because it one of the few special times I remember sharing with my dad. Thinking of him today, on Father's Day, reminds me of one of those Sundays at dusk when the blue business of loneliness closes in on you as soon as the katydids burst into song. Dad has been gone for years, but sometimes a familiar scent, sound, or sight penetrates a memory ... like the scent of Old Spice, the sound of a plane overhead, or the sight of peonies bursting blood red on the north side of our home.
Funny, the things we remember. There was mom, a constant crown on childhood's foundation with no beginning or end to a list of jeweled memories. But it was the little slivers of time with dad that grew over the years into big events. Moments that flutter in the heart from time to time. Like the way he gently brushed the snarls from my hair as I sat on the floor beneath his chair, taught me to whistle, ride a bicycle, and tighten my roller skates. Like the Memorial Day tradition of picking peonies, flicking off the big black ants, and taking the blossoms to the family plot in Clifton.
But mostly, I remember his magic fascination with the sky; it danced at the center of his heart. The stars, the moon, and flying. He used to tell bedtime stories about a man who was building a ladder to the moon. And each night he'd spin a new tale as he added another rung. I used to question why that man wanted to climb up to the moon so badly. Sometimes, I'm still faced with that rising storm of wonder. At the core of dad's dreams, he was a pilot. He always talked about flying off somewhere and was eager to share the wingspan of his fantasies with family and friends.
We listened with hungry curiosity, wondering why he always wanted to fly off somewhere. Maybe it had something to do with the sky's inaccessible blue solitude. Or maybe some dots just aren't meant to be connected. One of my favorite pictures is of him sitting in his friend's blue and white airplane; he is wearing a grey jumpsuit. The picture was taken a few years before he died and his eyes are brighter than the twinkling points in a June night sky.
Dad's runway ran out before he ever got off the ground with his dreams. But every time I hear a plane overhead, a breath of melancholy sweeps over me. I think of my dad at the throttle, drifting with the winds of passion, flying right into the wild blue yonder and having the time of his life. On memories brightest star, I close my eyes and make a wish.