We drive home; groceries spill out of bags; wipers slap raindrops and Kirk Douglas is on stage remembering his father in Before I Forget. He talks slowly, fighting stroke-impaired muscles to transfer thought to voice. (Here I paraphrase.) "My father wasn't around much when I was a boy," he says. "When we moved, he chose not to come along. But once, when I was five, I was in a play and my dad came to see me. He didn't say anything about my performance but after the show was over, he bought me an ice cream cone and that, that was my Oscar."
The wipers slap, a spearmint plant slides off the front seat and I calculate the years. Ninety-two minus five. Eighty-seven years. Eighty-seven years later Kirk Douglas remembers the one time he knew he mattered to his dad. I drive by the Gas and Go where the men loiter with bottles wrapped in paper bags. I drive through the section of town where men sit on porches. All day they sit, play cards. I drive past the school where a long line of women wait to pick up children after work and take those children home to a fatherless house. Dads are a rare breed in my little town.
I remembered these things this weekend when we went to see Joe.
Joe is a friend and a father to three. His wife left but Joe stayed and now he raises these three children on his own. He has a good job, he just earned his MBA but these things are not the things that impress. Joe and I left the kids with Stuart and took Joe's truck to make a pizza run after he gave his stick-to-the-plan child (Plan A was barbeque) a heads up about Plan B. I stood in the driveway waiting while he shuffled art projects, Barbies and sports equipment out of my seat. His car looks like mine. He cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast. When his daughter's hair slid out of her ponytail, he fixed it. He brushed yellow tufts from the shedding dog and called to the speedy pianist in the next room, "Slow down. You're not supposed to rush through that piece." He refereed turn taking with the Wii. His house is filled with children's art taped to the walls and photos on the fridge. It feels homey at Joe's house.
We drove away Sunday afternoon while Joe herded his kids into the house for a quick rest before a game of golf. It is good to know that there are still men in this world who are do not rage against becoming an adult, who choose to be selfless. I smiled the whole way home comforted with the knowledge that Joe's kids will not have to make do with the memory of a single ice cream cone.