I remember the good times with my father.
Like when I was eighteen and living with him for a brief period. He began to open up about his own life.
One night, while we sat on the back porch of the two bedroom duplex he had been renting, just big enough for a small patch of grass, his belly filled with chardonnay, he asked me what I thought my mother was doing right then at that same moment. His eyes drifted elsewhere, in a world only he knew. A fantasy, where their marriage never fell apart and he was rich and in shape.
He lit a cigarette, took a long pull, let the smoke settle into his lungs before gently releasing rings and curls into the evening’s soft spring air. A rawness in his tone settled in anytime he would speak about his past. I imagined dark clouds hovered over him for the responsibilities he had taken on as a man. But he covered it all with smiles and an easiness that allowed me to believe everything was okay.
He told me about when he and my mom were still married one of his favorite things to do was to cut the grass every Saturday afternoon. He’d get about half way done with the front lawn and just sit there looking up at this two-story middle-class house looming over him. He told me he had no idea at the time how he would be able to pay for that house while also raising us four kids. That’s why he’d drink so many Elephant beers while walking that gas mower up and down the front lawn. Cutting the grass, he told me, the smell of it, eased his mind.
There came a point in the conversation, when the sun had completely gone down and nothing but the fluorescent porch light shadowed across the small yard. The expression my father wore, the one I believed he must have drifted to the memories of our past, the big backyard of my childhood, a place we used to spend so much time together. The yard was giant in comparison to what we gazed upon at that moment. He told me with one final drag from his cigarette, releasing his hopes and dreams along with those grey rings and curls, I was going to go beyond what he could have ever imagined in this life. If I wanted to play in the NFL, he believed I could do it. My heart squeezed with love. The kind only a father could give. I knew who I was that night.
I had a purpose.
I had a direction.
Those moments with my father, sitting still and talking about our lives and football, were memories I held tightly for many years. Maybe because we allowed ourselves to dream. And for a precious time, those dreams did exist, in that positive space between both of our worlds.