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Three Essays

Copyright © 1999 by Steven Lerner



Child's Bayshore Red, 9 1/2 M, B.F.Goodrich, PF Flyers

It is 1955. I walk with Dad down a tree lined street, on old broken sidewalk, with tree roots stirring the sidewalk pieces. We are going to get new sneakers for me. I am exited as we enter a giant building with wooden floors (Sears & Roebuck). We pass through tall canyons of white enameled rectangular objects, which are washing machines, that tower over me all in a row on either side of the aisle. We arrive at the shoe department, and I select a pair of red sneakers. We walk home, I in my new red sneakers, feeling like superman. Dad carries my old shoes in the box from my new sneakers.

It is 1999. Dad died two years ago. I decide to examine all the stuff, mostly electronic parts, that he stored in the garage cabinets over the car. After sorting through numerous boxes of parts, I see a small rectangular box that looks like a miniature shoe box. It has printed circuit boards in it now, and was relabled with different contents several times. I look at the end of the box, and the original label says "Child's Bayshore Red, B.F. Goodrich, PF Flyers, 9 1/2 M". It is the box from my new red sneakers! The box is somewhat faded, since Dad saved it, to store stuff, about 44 years ago.

The feeling of being with Dad when I was age 2 or 3 entered me, for a fleeting moment in a tenuous form, when I realized what the box was.

The Skeleton Tree

When I was out in the yard, to mow the lawn, and trim the front and rear hedges, I leaned a rake against the old orange tree which I have called the "skeleton tree". On an impulse, I placed my hand against the trunk and pushed. The tree moved easily. When I completed the other tasks, I pushed the tree down. The roots had rotted away. Then I got out the electric chain saw that Dad had, and I chopped the tree into foot long pieces.

I thought of how the tree was once so tough and resilient. Now the roots were rotted out, and the wood was dry and easily cut. This tree was dying in early '97. I was in the yard with Dad, and he wanted to cut it down. I suggested waiting to see what growth came with spring. With spring, on April seventh, came Dad's death. In my mind, I linked Dad with the tree. I found today that Mom did too. She said it was like saying good bye to Dad again, when she looked out and saw that the tree was gone.

When I pushed the tree, and found it so yielding, I knew that the time for the tree to be removed had come. I thought of how robust Dad was for so many years, until his time came. Then, with just a little push from fate, when he was by himself one night, he was away from us, gone but for our memories and dreams.

A Visit to Dad One Night

I find myself walking down a very large hallway inside a huge aircraft. I know that I am going to see Dad, in the place of the dead. The place of the dead turns out to be in the tail section of the fuselage of the giant airplane. I move onward, noting the flat mat finish of the unornamented gray metal walls. Rooms of various sorts open off of the hallway. Finally I reach the big double doors that are the entry way to the place of the dead.

As I enter, I can feel a strange feeling of dislocation; the laws of physics are different here. The rules that I am familiar with do not apply here. I hear a voice, over a public address system, which sounds a little familiar. I realize that it is the voice of Grandfather Morris, Dad's father, calling for Dad's brother, Uncle Henry. Movement in my peripheral vision draws my attention to the corner of the hall by the big doors. It is Henry, facing away from me, dressed in chino slacks and a muted tartan shirt, that are increasingly clearly not a three piece suit. I say nothing, and move farther into the place of the dead, looking for Dad. A few people I do not recognize are entering and leaving the hallway from rooms on the sides. I'm not sure who or what I may encounter.

After a while (Have I been here forever?), I come upon Dad, standing by a long, narrow, unfinished wooden table (I know it is of his manufacture), by the side wall of the hallway. Dad is wearing a sport shirt and slacks that change back and forth into a three piece suit continuously. Dad is everyone who he was simultaneously. Time happens all at once in the place of the dead. We talk without speaking, and without knowing exactly what we say to each other. I pick up a small tray, with some unidentifiable, odd, small tools and hardware items on it, from the table. The tray and its contents, as well as Dad, have been waiting there for me for all time. They are given me, to take with me, without it being said with words. I just know they are now mine to take with me. It is time to leave the place of the dead. I speak to Dad, saying that I hope that there is a lot of interesting stuff like this here that he can enjoy. I turn away from Dad. I can feel that it is definitely time for me to go.

Knowing that the rules are different, and much surer of myself, and the way, I rise into the air in the hallway, assuming a horizontal position with my hands forward. I fly swiftly, retracing my way through the hall to the two big doors that are the boundary of the place of the dead. Once beyond the doors, the rules apply, and I settle to my feet, walking back towards the front of the huge airplane. I can feel that I have something valuable that I did not have before.

The giant airplane keeps flying, wherever it is going. I don't know who is piloting it, or where its destination is, but I am not particularly concerned, knowing as I do that I am on it.

This was a dream.


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