Joshua started crying from his crib in the adjacent room, so that was it. I never heard my Father speak of his illness again. Ever.
Instead, we went to football games and movies. We traveled to see family members in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia and Sylacauga, Alabama. We went to Hawaii and to the Grand Canyon and to Disney World… twice.
The Sun absolutely loved Disney. All of it: Snow White, Mickey, Goofy, Pluto, Donald… the whole lot of ‘em.
Walter Elias Disney (kaput!) was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901. In 1928, he introduced the world to Mickey Mouse through the very first sound-synchronized animation ever, called: “Steamboat Willie“.
In 1955, Walt Disney Productions opened an amusement park called “Disneyland” in Anaheim, California. Featuring historical reconstructions, displays, rides and lots of larger than life-sized cartoon characters, it quickly became a famous tourist attraction. Disney World opened near Orlando, Florida, in 1971.
That’s where we went. Orlando.
You are going to have a great day. It’s yours, and you can make it anything you want it to be. If the weather calls for rain, decide now that you will enjoy getting wet. If the test score is low, make up your mind that ‘it can only get better from here.’ If punished unfairly for something, just smile for the many things you’ve not been caught for… Attitude is everything. Today is not yet anything. Fill it with laughter.
I woke up one morning to that note taped to the outside of my bedroom door. My dad wrote it some time in the middle of the night… said he was just thinking about me and how hard it must be to be a eighth-grader.
Father was right-handed.
He made mention to me on several occasions – while we were playing ball or throwing rocks into a lake – that he’d always wished he was ambidextrous. He said most great athletes “could go both ways.”
Father was not ambidextrous, but as it turned out, he got to write that note with his left hand. It had been several weeks since the last twitch took his good arm from him.
Oh, the irony of it all.
My father was a good man. He did good things. Thought good thoughts. He was a self-described Christian—believed that Jesus Christ lived thousands of years ago and came to live among men for the sole purpose of dying for our sins. “Jesus died on the cross so we wouldn’t have to,” he’d say.
I guess that makes sense. But what does it mean to be “good”? I mean, if you are being “good” in order to receive some sort of reward— for instance, to get into heaven — then you’re not really being good, right? I mean, the only truly moral act is one that is done solely because it is the right thing to do. Right? If you’re looking for acceptance or forgiveness or – heaven forbid – everlasting life, then that’s not a moral act; that’s a quid pro quo.
But there’s a difference. Father was innately good. I know, I know, he was fallen and depraved and wicked once, too, but he was good because he knew there was more to life than living. He didn’t teach us to “do unto others because you want them to do unto you,” because he knew — like I know — that that’s bunk. That’s diplomacy… not morality.
Flannery O’Conner once said that, “religion is middle-class insurance.” I certainly don’t agree with her, but I like to imagine she and my Grandfather sitting on his front porch, drinking Scotch and contemplating the morals and meanings and inner-workings of “god,” the Church and the fall of man. More than likely, when the two of them conversed, it was about more simple things: the weather, the new stop sign on the corner of Euclid Avenue, or perhaps the price of eggs in China. Whatever that means.
My father was the most soundly faithful and spiritual person I have ever known. There’s a difference. Christianity has so very much more collective wisdom about finding God than father, or me, or the Executioner or even Flannery O’Conner could ever have alone. Regardless, I remember my father as a very good and decent human being. And I’m more sure than I am about the fact that I’m sitting here that he is in heaven.