Wherever you are now, thank you for this visit in 1984, on the porch
in our first house in Germantown, Philadelphia, when our baby Abby
was born. I remember how wonderful I felt in your presence that day,
sharing finally the mysterious grace and helplessness of fatherhood.
Pop Pop, you were awesome and cantankerous, infuriating and loveable.
Even though you were a white American male, you were a good man,
and I have decided not to blame you for all the sins of the world.
Your most wonderful quality was this: you stopped trying to figure me out.
You gave me permission to be whoever I might become. In your presence,
I never had to be you. I could make mistakes.
Where you are right now, I have no idea. But I bow down in gratitude.
Thank you for me. Thank you for my children. Thank you for my ancestors.
Thank you for the seed of Life, the vector of time, the momentum of
Thank you for your rough care. Thank you for your wondrous manly
incapacity to be cruel. You were irascible, but you never hit me. You never
spanked me. Your chastisement was fair. You were always there to come
home to. No matter how far I wandered away, you threw a feast for me.
Perhaps you have dispersed into cosmic dust. That's OK, I still feel you
all around me. I still bow down to you. I honor you as sunlight falling
on my brow. I worship you as rain, nurturing the roots of my food.
I venerate you as soil under my feet, remembering the enormous green
zuccini squashes of your garden in July, and the terrible bread you tried
to make out of them. It was bread kneaded by big clumsy hands of
You are the air in my lungs. You are the taste of amber ale, the crunch
of peanuts, the cheer of a triple hit by Richie Ashburn on Saturday night
in Connie Mack Stadium, 1957. You are the haunting sound of an
Evinrude outboard engine fading across a still cove on a humid morning
in the Chesapeake Bay. You will return to take me on a fishing trip.
I know that my breath contains atoms of your body, mingled with atoms
breathed by fathers in the Congo, in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, fathers in El
Salvador and Vietnam; atoms breathed by black and brown fathers, by
slaves and kings, by Jesus and Buddha; and it is your breath, still
circulating through the stars. Father, you have no edges.
Thank you. I love you. It goes without saying. But I want to say it.