I’ve written a lot about my genetic father, in both fiction and non-fiction. I’m about as sick of him as all of you probably are, so I won’t waste another Father’s Day going on about how awful he was.
I want to talk about someone else instead.
In the late 80s, my mother met and married a man I didn’t like much at first.
After living for years with my terrifying but largely responsible father, Larry seemed dreamy and impractical and disconnected from reality — better suited to lazy afternoons watching the Sci-Fi channel or reading fantasy novels than, say, being anything approaching a husband for my mother or a father to me.
But as time went on, I discovered that his gentleness and imagination were just what my mother needed, and thinking back on it now, they were just what all the rest of us needed, too. He gave my mother years of safety and happiness, plenty of those long afternoons reading cool books and talking weird theories about the universe, and he did the same for my sister and I, too, not to mention my nieces.
He introduced me to Middle Earth. It was at his house that I first watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. He typed up my first serious story so I could submit it to magazines…when I was fourteen.
He bore the brunt of my sullen teenage years, too, all the eye-rolling and fun-making of a person who seemed a total crackpot at the time. Larry had deeply felt spiritual beliefs that certainly weren’t like everyone else’s, and I didn’t have much respect at the time for a former hippie still keeping the faith twenty and thirty years later.
I do now, though. I admire Larry’s steadfast lifelong battle against everything practical, everything expected, everything dull and emotionless.
He won that battle a few years ago, dying with all of us around him. He seemed content, pleased to see us, and he was more than ready to go after months of having one organ after another replaced by uncomfortable machines. It was strangely appropriate, I guess, that a man almost solely of the spirit would slowly lose his body like that.
He didn’t really need it.
I don’t pray much, but when I do, I usually say, “Please let good happen. Let us recognize it when it does and endure when it doesn’t. Let us be its agents.” Larry was definitely one of its agents, and I miss him.
He helped provide space and safety for my imagination, and I’ll always be grateful. Toward the end, he couldn’t speak while on the ventilator but he could mouth words. I think he might have said he was proud of me, though it could just be my ego misinterpreting him. I hope so, and either way, I’ll do everything I can to live up to that.
I wish I’d recognized him sooner as the great father he was.