Archive for August, 2006

The Wrecking Ball

Back in the days when I was still young enough to be able to sleep in – sleeping in seems like such a luxury now that those days are gone – I was visiting my parents when my father came in early one morning, woke me up and told me to get dressed. We were going on an adventure.

He didn’t give me any details but it was clear from his enthusiasm that it would be a good one. This was in the days when I was living in San Francisco. It was cold outside so I had probably come back to North Carolina for Christmas.

We climbed into the white van – one of those no-nonsense vans that painters are fond of – and drove over to Hardee’s to pick up sausage biscuits and coffee. From there, we drove over to an old brick building. Standing next to it was a crane with a wrecking ball dangling from its cable.

Ah, it was to be a grand adventure indeed. We were going to watch a wrecking ball knock down a building.

Because it was cold, my father left the engine running. We put our coffees on the dash and unwrapped our biscuits. I am sure that we talked that morning but I have absolutely no recollection of anything that we might have said.

What I remember is how comfortable it felt sitting next to my father in the warm van, sipping coffee and watching the wrecking ball whack into the building. It’s one of my favorite memories of being with my father. It came to mind the other day as I was thinking about how satisfying sanctioned destruction can be as I drove out to watch some firefighters burn down a house as a training exercise.

Just after my father died in 1991, Mr. Whitfield mentioned that he had thought about his father every single day since he died. For a long time, it seemed as if that would be true for me, too. But when the wrecking-ball memory resurfaced, I realized that I can no longer say, with certainty, that it is.

As much a part of me as my father is, it’s possible that I no longer consciously think of him every single day.

Once, several years after he died, I had just gotten out of my car in the parking lot at work and was walking toward the office when I saw a man ahead of me walking toward the building. From behind, it looked like my father.

“Great!” I said to myself. “Dad’s coming to see me.”

Then I remembered. That wasn’t possible. My father wasn’t ever again going to drop by unexpectedly to visit.

I felt afresh the sense of loss.

Remembering the day that we sipped coffee and watched the wrecking ball do its work coupled with the realization that I may no longer think of him every single day had a similar effect.

I may no longer think of him every day but some days I sure do miss him.