Stars50_08

Beverly Cornish as Eliza Doolittle and Herb Benham as Henry Higgins in BMT's (then called Theatre B) inaugural production of "My Fair Lady" in 1969. Dad knew how to make an entrance.

Dad,

Nadal won the French Open — again. For the 12th time. If you have any insight on how to be beat him on clay, please send it. Federer fans, and players not named Federer, would appreciate it.

“Send it,” I know, is preposterous but as Dad still makes weekly appearances in my dreams, “send it” is not as far-fetched as it might sound. He’s given me advice — both mundane and helpful — in dreams, so maybe he could talk to somebody in the sports division of Up There on how to handle Nadal’s wicked topspin forehand.

Dad died three years ago yesterday, the day before Mom’s birthday. “The day” before was considerate of him. Dying on your wife’s birthday can be a bummer because it’s hard to celebrate one without observing the other.

People are right about the different stages of missing a parent. The grief is intense at first, assuming they didn’t catapult you into therapy while they were alive, but shifts as the years go by. Now, his memory, burnished with time, makes me smile. “Smile” is fitting because his was brilliant and lit the dark and musty corners of any room in which he found himself.

Memories burnished like brass include his phone calls and voicemails which went something like this: “I know you’re busy. Is this a good time for you?”

“Is this a good time for you?” I can’t imagine a better time. Receiving a call from your father is one of life’s great privileges.

If I had ever thought myself too busy when he called, it wasn’t that I was busy, I was confused. “Busy” can be overrated.

What’s not overrated was his imprint on his family. I see his personality, mannerisms and expressions in his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. This kind of reincarnation is almost like a family magic trick.

Nora, our 3-year-old grandchild who lives down the street, takes huge pleasure in singing and dancing. Dad did, too, and although this doesn’t qualify as some sort of genetic miracle, it’s hard not to get a kick out of it and think that they he would have also. Dad would have danced Nora to the moon.

Last weekend, we were in San Diego and Lillian, our soon to be 2-year-old granddaughter, woke up from her nap, entered the room as if she were riding a beam of light. She was happy to be out of her crib, happy to see everybody and happy to be jumping into the pool.

Like his great granddaughter, Dad knew how to make an entrance. You didn’t want to follow him into a room, on a stage or after a toast. You were better off waiting a day or so until the shine wore off.

Dads reincarnated in future generations is the universe throwing us a bone. A demonstration of a lively spirit bridging what appears to be an unbridgeable divide.

You see these things and you think again of the line from the Jimmy Webb song, “I may simply be a single drop of rain

“But I will remain/And I'll be back again, and again and again and again and again.”

During the San Diego weekend, we watched Lillian and Andrew play in the sand at the beach. They reminded me of our kids and being kids ourselves. Generations blur. We might as well be waves, one following another.

Father’s Day. Guys will milk this one and with encouragement, we do. However, it can be a good day to enjoy memories that glow like brass.

Dad, I’m doing my part here, now do yours. Look into this Nadal thing for me. There are a bunch of people who would appreciate it.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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