Friday, February 15, 2013

One True Thing from My Dad, Harry Wilson Reynolds, III: A Spark Always Exists

Dad and Grandson Tyler
It's a fitting time to share One True Thing from my father, since being a paperboy has been recently on my mind. When I got that first paper route as a ten-year old, I remember one of the all-time highs of doing the thing (rivaling even the obscene amounts of candy-purchasing-power I now possessed) was Saturday morning breakfasts with my father. Instead of taking my bike around, as I did from Monday though Friday, on Saturday morning my dad would tell me to hop in his tiny 1982 Ford Escort, baby blue, and off we'd go. He would help me deliver the papers and when we were finished, we'd drive over to A.C. Peterson's Diner on the border of Hartford and Windsor, Connecticut.


Dad Snowblowing Nemo!
That word deserves its own paragraph because that's what my father and I built our relationship on. Pancakes. We would sit at A.C. Peterson's and eat mountains of pancakes with a huge ball of fresh butter in the middle and pure maple syrup streaming down the sides like avalanches off Everest. My dad would plunge a fork into his own thick stack and--bam!--literally a full quarter of the stack would disappear into his mouth. I still don't know how he managed to do it. He'd ask me about school, about writing, about what I thought of life. And each time his fork would plunge in I'd watch with a massive smile, waiting to see what correlation of syrup and butter and pancake would make the journey to his mouth.

On Sundays, throughout my childhood, my dad would cook his own pancakes in our home kitchen. He was a fixture by the stove--and as each of my four brothers and I would wake, and my mother, and when my grandparents arrived, my dad would stare out with wild, wonderful eyes and ask, "How many!"

Indeed, it was more a call to arms than a verifiable question.

What I appreciate most about my dad is his relentless enthusiasm for life. He's had to face some walls that I can't even imagine trying to scale, but every day he has woken up and tried to pass on to his five boys a sense of the wonder of life--the fact that we can hug one another, laugh with one another, noogie one another, fart (constantly) in front of one another, listen to one another, love one another.

When I was in high school, I did a creative writing project whereby I wrote 50 poems and then revised them and collected them into a small poetry book, called Eggs, Sunnyside Up. My dad read the thing and then, one Saturday afternoon, drive me into Hartford and brought me out for a cup of coffee at a place called Zuzu's, where we sat up in the loft and I tried to get used to the flavor of coffee while he told me how proud he was of me. Then he brought me to a print shop and together we chose a cover, font, style, size and he paid for thirty copies of the book to be printed up.

Dad and His Five Boys During a Camping Reunion Trip
Many years ago, during my first year of being a high school English teacher, there came a point where I just felt like I had nothing left. I had a stack of essays to grade and I'd already put them off long enough. Now it was Sunday, and I had promised--promised!--my students that I would have them back on Monday no matter what. The problem was, this particular Sunday I could barely get out of bed, let alone conceive of grading 26 five-page essays.

My father drove thirty miles to meet me at a local coffee shop--Lasalle's--and sat with me for five hours as I relentlessly graded the things. Everytime I looked up at him with weary eyes that said--I can't do this job, let alone grade these essays--my dad would walk over to the free refill station and grab me another cup of joe, then place it in front of me. "Come on, Lukie-babes, you got this. Yes! Caffeine it! I put extra cinnamon in there, Luke--you got this!"

Dad and Tyler and I in Summer 2010
And, as often happens when my father comes out with his phrases that arise from his deep enthusiasm for life, I had to smile. My father must have gotten me about twelve cups of coffee that day (and pancakes were a part of the meeting earlier, to be sure). And he made sure to sit across from me until I finished.

In this life, we all face walls that we wish we didn't have to. We all come up against circumstances that we wish we could change. My father has faced a lot of those. But he's always chosen to keep going at it--to keep pouring another cup of coffee and look for a way to find some enthusiasm (or at least invent some strange new phraseology). That's the big lesson I hold onto from my father: don't quit, and while you're not quitting, drink a heck of a lot of coffee and pile your pancakes high.

Without further rambling from me, One True Thing--poetry style--from my dad.

A Spark Always Exists
By Harry Wilson Reynolds, III

Once, when the first snow came,
I saw with wonder
The small tracks.
Sprinkled across the ground,
Like small jewels cast aside,
By a thoughtless Giant.
As I grew
I saw only muddy tracks,
The need to shovel paths,
Jobs to be done,
And the ever insistent song of belonging.
As my step grew slow,
My mind churned unceasingly:
Things that had gotten away,
Magic that had died,
Names of things that I could not remember.
Dead light
Bathed me daily,
Whispering the lost song of life,
Stealing my last gasp.
The promise of redemption,
Just out of reach,
Haunts my every thought.
The journey continues
Along a familiar path,
Worn low by replicated desires,
Demon friends that encourage,
Sameness that blankets the night.
Somewhere in that maelstrom
A spark of me exists,
To be blown to life
Amid the rubble of life's hardness,
It's disappointment,
It's stolen expectations.