He had dinner with a woman in midtown Manhattan, took her home in
a cab, which he then dismissed, and walked down the street toward the
subway. He was never seen again.
I was five years old.
I was forty years old when I cleaned the attic of my family’s
home and began to learn some of the details surrounding his disappearance,
and a great deal about him. A musty box in the attic served as an appropriate
emotional metaphor for me: I opened it and dusted off what I knew and
how I felt. In the process, I learned a lot about both of us.
The source of all that I had known as a young child about my father,
apart from my own random memories as a five-year-old, was my mother.
Your father worked in New York City. He was the sports editor of a
big magazine. He was an important guy. He’d met Joe Namath, Cassius
Clay and Willie Mays. He’d gotten a ride in a race car.
He wrote a book about Jim Ryun, the track star, in which he’d
mentioned me in the foreword.
My father was almost a mythical figure to me, but unlike the aforementioned
sports legends, most of my dad’s clothes remained in our house
in New Jersey, which allowed me the opportunity to spend time in his
closet, breathing in his smell, trying to remember him, to pull him
back to me through some olfactory voodoo I knew wouldn’t work.
He was gone. After a while, it seemed like he’d always been gone
and that I’d always felt sad about it. His absence left me feeling
exposed and different. I don’t remember being told he had disappeared;
I remember wishing he’d come home.
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