He's older now. Yet, I wonder if he knows that I always see him as he was when I was a child. In my mind, he is always at least 3 feet taller than me and I have to crane my neck to look up at him. In reality, this would be absurd because he would be well over 8' tall. But it is not absurd, it is my indelible image of my father. I do not see myself as a child anymore, but no matter how tall I am, my father will always be a giant. When I conjure an image of the two of us together, he always stands taller. He will always be a pillar of strength. No matter how the years may change his physical appearance, this is the image I will always carry in my mind.
He speaks more slowly now than he did when I was younger. When we were younger. I can tell that this frustrates him. He has always been quick-witted, and timing is everything in comedy. So he doesn't have the comedic timing that he once had. He's never told me as much, but I know this frustrates him. I inherited his sense of humor (along with curly hair and a bad back) so I can understand how discouraging it is to have the perfect comeback on the tip of your tongue - but fail to deliver in time for the laugh. Being able to make other people laugh is a gift that brings instant gratification. My dad has always been able to make people laugh. He's a funny guy, even if you have to wait a little longer to get the punchline these days. It's usually worth the wait.
I spoke to my dad on the phone today and his speech was slow and deliberate, but the image I conjure of him as I listen shows no signs of aging at all. I wonder if he knows, and I wonder if he would find comfort in knowing that no matter what he sees in the mirror after all of these years, I still see him as the tallest, strongest man I've ever known. He may speak slower now and his hairline departed, but I will never forget being four years old and terrified in my bedroom while he stepped on my vanity stool and reached impossible heights to rescue me from the spider who had been taunting me from the ceiling. A true giant of a man. So much a giant that my adulation from the arachnid removal quickly turned to grief, as the stool of my beloved vanity was crushed into pieces from the weight of this full grown man. The four year old version of me sat there, stunned and emotionally baffled, taking it all in - my hero father, the spider villain in his tissue coffin, and the collateral damage to my coveted vanity. My vanity with whom I had a special bond that can only exist between a four year old girl and any material object she loves on that particular day. My loving, perfect father looked at my sad face after destroying my furniture and apologetically said, "Well. I got the spider!", half-smiled, then lowered his eyes to the floor and walked out the door. Timing is everything. Apology is overrated.
In retrospect, this memory brings me joy. At the time, I'm sure I threw a tantrum at the loss of my stool. Now I look back and smile at his preposterous belief that a little girl's stool would hold his weight, and his perfect deadpan attempt to overshadow his poor judgment. "I got the spider.", he celebrates and walks away as if perhaps I hadn't noticed the splintered wood he left behind. I am no longer a four year old with an over-privileged sense of children's furniture, but my dad will forever be the same. No matter how many years may pass, this is the lens through which I always see him. Impossibly tall, strong, and with deadpan delivery. And I hope that is a comfort to him, and to all parents, to know that a fountain of youth may exist - if only in the eyes of your children.
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