Father’s Day Tribute  

I made this website for my dad. While it is, itself, a tribute to him, I also have a few words to share.

For Fagioli.
Love always,

It’s always a dice roll when I describe my father to people who do not know him.
“My dad, well you know….he’s a doctor…”
–who used to hold demonstrations in front of the state capitol and lug around suitcases full of dead peoples’ shoes. And go to parades in a “Smoke-Free Santa Fe” coyote costume.

Situs Inversus? Kyphosis? Endonuerium? His is a steel trap memory.

He’s an athlete, you know; a guy who doesn’t smoke or drink.
–who’s part of the Ayahuasca church. And wears a purple speedo.

He is a dancer, a tumbling aikidoka, lean and silly and alive. He is tough and patient and just over-confident enough to be a great public speaker.

My dad is like one of those tall sunflowers you grow, in clusters, on the West-facing side of a shed. They get ten feet tall, sometimes, and the birds hang off of them like clumsy bats, wobbling upside down with their mouths full of seeds. He is solid and his weight is one of fruition, of true productive power. He is a maker of music, of ideas, of colorful soups. He is a wanderer; he laughs a rich laugh of pane and finocchio and thick winter boots. I store my memories of him in such far flung compartments of my brain’s catalogue as Colors — maroon and coconut-oil brown, caribbean turquoise and his own variations. They share the space with the deep-sweet nighttime voice of the protean male, that messenger from Bula Bula, the soft warm chest and smell of sandalwood.

When I think of him I see the sea. He started getting a tattoo for each decade he has spent on this earth; a wave, the liquid form of that same omnipotent force that whips the hair from my face as I run down a steep hill in San Francisco, crashes on the shore of my father’s hip.
I guess you might say that his hearth sometimes needed a few more well-tended logs. He burnt hot but some years the winter wind stifled much of the flame until it flickered, a stuttering farolito or two to navigate a driveway in too little moonlight. I always wanted to kindle the remains, though, crouch down and blow air into the coals, sustain its spark through a candle on my bedside table.
I can’t remember when it started, exactly.

A sudden sense of loss, of missing my father. Saying goodbye a couple of years ago, in Sicily, I cried silently, like a child, as I inched onward in the airport security line. I turned around and he was receding, his familiar backpack a little larger on him than before, his gait collecting distance as he moved.

Years ago, his garden mirrored a feeling for me — a little anemic and peripheral. Not for lack of love, but perhaps hampered by the overlap of louder, more direct concerns. Stunted tomatoes, a bent over eggplant.
We are all trying make our way through this life, Dad.

Survival means fear, and desire, and energy, and your soul could have been running toward something a little bit ahead of all of us. Your nurturing fanned out across a field too wide for us to crawl beyond, as children reaching out for their father. I’m happy now, able at least to see in the distance the trails you imprinted in the sand.

I’m lucky. When I am quiet and I listen, you speak through me.

When I think of you I think of miners lettuce, cold in the spring snowmelt, a sudden green. You showed us how to find it and I’ve never stopped looking. I think of your kind face and ready, gentle words; love comes so easily to you. Of tart wild raspberries dropped carefully into a plastic cup, us patrolling for stops as you inched the car up our rutted mountain roads.

I think of the donald duck noise you make to babies in the airport and supermarket line. They always look at you with a posture of surprise, amused and reverent to hear someone speak their language so fluidly. Sometimes for me there is an odd tinge of impatience, imagining the day I might watch you charm and delight my own children.

They will giggle and gasp just like the others. And eventually, like me, they will hear your voice inside themselves, and know that they are safe.

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