You expect the phone to ring any moment. Something happens and you can hear yourself saying the same phrase they did. You pull on a sweater and notice that it’s exactly the color they wore.
You haven’t celebrated their birthday in years but it’s marked forever in the calendar of your mind, and even before the day comes you’ve spotted a card that would be just perfect.
You read about something that happened the year they were born, and you start calculating how old they would be this year if they were still alive.
My dad was born in 1924 and died in 2012 just short of his 88th birthday. It was a peaceful death and not unexpected. “We had the luxury of saying good-bye,” my mom says.
But the dad that comes to mind more often is decades younger, more vigorous, just back from a sail on the bay, his face flushed, his blue eyes the color of the sea. “Hiya Skeezix,” he calls me.
I wasn’t going to become like him, but I keep catching myself doing the exact same things he did, like greeting complete strangers with a big smile and “Hi!”
Or discovering the gravesite of a 17th-century Puritan ancestor, taking a photo of it and showing it to everybody with the phrase, “This here is the tombstone of the first Hamlin on these shores.”
My boys roll their eyes. I rolled mine back then when he did the same sort of genealogical research, thrusting our heritage on us.
Or look at this photo of the bench he used to sit on at the Huntington Library, the one that has a plaque bearing his name, and here I am with my son, Tim, three generations together, even if only two of them can be seen.
“Faith and family are the two most important things in life,” he would say. I rolled my eyes at that too. Now I know exactly what he meant.
And you should have heard his long rambling graces at dinner. He was brilliant, giving us so much information in his prayers we called them “The Six O’Clock News.”
I suppose I could become someone else, but becoming my dad isn’t the worst thing that could happen, not by a long shot. I just hope my sons are prepared for the day they start sounding like me.
When they have kids I promise to call them “Skeezix.” If I should be so blessed.