He has never bought a hot dog at a baseball game or even been to a baseball game. While he has seen a few bocce matches in the park and thrown a few games himself, he has never gambled on any sporting events, not even a Super Bowl pool. Though he has lived in Chicago for over 50 years, he has never strolled down a neighborhood street and stopped for a beer at a bar or a beef sandwich at a corner stand. He has been in McDonald’s once, on the way home from the hospital about two years ago. He has never eaten an onion ring and has probably never seen one. I’m almost certain he has never eaten canned soup. He has never tasted a jaw breaker or a piece of licorice or any other piece of candy other than chocolate or Torrone. He wouldn’t know Good ‘N Plenty from Milk Duds.
He has never had a license or driven a car. Though he has hopped on countless CTA buses, he has never taken the el and probably never the subway. He’s been on a plane only three or four times. Other than Chicago, he has never been to any other metropolitan city in the world. Maybe Rome when he was a boy.
He has never known any other job than tailor. He has never danced the twist or clucked to the chicken dance or played an instrument or read a classic America novel or listened to jazz or played poker, though he did enjoy a few Italian card games in the evenings with the other men on lawn chairs during long ago summers. He has never been to a concert, a play, a musical. He did see a few circuses, which he loved. He has never used a computer or owned a cell phone or listened to an iPod.
He has never smoked. Anything. He’s oblivious to nearly every type of recreational drug in the world. He never had a headache until he turned 70. He never had a cough until about a year or two ago. And I’m pretty sure he has had only one or two colds in his lifetime. He has never broken a bone or needed stitches, other than for surgical procedures, like the insertion of his pacemaker.
He will never read one of my short stories or novels. He will never see me teach a class. This is true of most parents, who never see their children in their place of work. He will never read this blog entry or ever understand what a blog is.
Though he’s lived a relatively sheltered existence, I don’t think my father is any less for the things he’s never done. And I don’t think his list, if I asked him to write one, would be very long. All his life he was content to stroll, visit neighbors, watch Red Skelton or Danny Kaye on television, and savor the abundance that appeared on his table day after night after day. But my long list still pains me because my old man possesses a child’s wonder. He would have lit up to take in the wide expanse of the outfield grass and doubled over in laughter flapping his arms during the chicken dance. And he would have enjoyed a damn onion ring once in a while, or a piece of tart candy. But these are my regrets, not his. Yet I can’t stop thinking about all the little gifts he could have had. To imagine his joy.