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TRAIN RIDE WITH MY FATHER
June 20, 2011
 
I saw my father on the train the other day. I did not notice him at first -- he was in the seat across the aisle, and I was over by the opposite window fussing with my iPhone. But we weren't too far out of Penn Station before I had glanced up and seen him, and after that I couldn't look away.

Dark suit, white collar, a sparse half-halo of snowy hair on the back of his head. He was asleep -- Daddy could always nap at the drop of a hat -- so I saw only him in profile. But I would know that profile anywhere. Once during our shared journey, he stirred a bit in response to a particularly braying exchange between engineer and conductor on the intercom. I was afraid he would awaken, change seats to another car, maybe even leave the train altogether, and I wasn't ready to let him go. But he just flexed his shoulders a bit and continued his nap.

I snapped a picture of him with my phone, an act that would have left him dumfounded. To the end of his life, his relationship with the telephone was an awkward one -- "Hello, Central?" he would bark into the receiver when I was little, puzzling the sweet-voiced lady at the telephone office, who referred to herself as "Operator" and in those days was simply there on the line when you picked up the phone. Even later on, he would speak loudly when he answered, conscious that the person to whom he was speaking was at a distance -- surely additional volume was needed. In his wildest imaginings, the idea that we would carry telephones around with us and take photographs with them would never have entered his mind. I sent the photographs to my daughters, captioning the photo "Remind you of anyone?" They both recognized him immediately.

I got off at my stop and he continued his nap. He never knew that I was there, that I had loved watching him sleep for thirty minutes. I purposely did not look at him full face as I left -- it would have been sad to see that he probably did not look like my father at all. So I was never able to see if his eyes were blue, like mine.
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Imagination

Imagination is funny,
it makes a cloudy day sunny
Makes a bee think of honey
just as I think of you.
Imagination is crazy,
your whole perspective gets hazy,
Starts you asking a daisy "What to do, what to do?"
Have you ever felt a gentle touch and then a kiss
And then and then,
find it's only your imagination again?
Oh, well
Imagination is silly, you go around willy-nilly
For example, I go around wanting you
And yet I can't imagine that you want me, too.
--Jimmy Van Heusen
Johnny Burke
1928
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