All it takes some days is a movie, a line in a song, a man sitting by himself at Starbucks doing a crossword puzzle, the deep sound of male laughter, something random, and his face comes into my view. Slowly fading in and slowly out, a series of still-life photographs, fuzzy around the edges. My Papa. It takes but a moment to break through several months of new normalcy, this flood of emotion sweeping toward me with memories of him, and with it the reminder, I really miss him.
His rumbling, chest-shaking laughter, usually at his own joke. His clear, steely blue eyes, dancing, crinkling at the corners and disappearing under eyelids for a moment. His arms, strongest at the forearm, from painting, always suntanned with soft blonde fuzz. How they wrapped around me like a blanket on a crisp fall evening, pulling me against his chest, always his little girl no matter how the years rolled by. I could count on him to be warm and cozy when I needed comfort.
We could sit for an hour, not uttering a word, perfectly content in each other's presence. He'd read his newest novel of the week. I'd be studying. Each of us interrupting the silence at moments to share a thought or idea from our book or from the week. He could do a NY Times crossword puzzle in five minutes flat. I could never finish one, not even close. But I felt so much smarter doing them with him. We'd bounce our dreams off each other, and I'd see the far-off twinkle in his eye, hungry for adventure, never too old for creative imagination, always the visionary with a plan. How I admired him. When he reached a dead-end, he'd find a way to climb through the wall. That was my dad.
Last night, it caught me by surprise, my delayed reaction after watching one of his favorites, Father of the bride. I could see him imitating Steve Martin again, see us planning for my older sister's wedding, inserting wisecracks from this movie along the way. I smile, relishing the memory, and then the taste of bitter and sweet sets in. When it's my turn someday to walk down that aisle, he won't be here.