― Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
Eight years old in the backyard on a Saturday morning winning imaginary World Series for the Giants or Rose Bowl for Cal or perhaps re-winning World War II for the Allies. My father appears on the back porch and says he’s going to the hardware store do I want to go with him. By way of answer I’m in the truck before he finishes the question.
Sitting high up in the cab of the truck next to Dad makes me feel impervious to anything the world could dish out. We ride towards downtown with the radio on, a ball game being broadcast. Dad smells like fresh lumber. He always does. Never like sweat or dirt no matter how hard he’s worked. He's a carpenter and can build or fix anything. In my mind he builds houses single handedly. We talk — as usual — about everything, anything, nothing. Dad tells a story from being a kid himself, in Finland and another of his sailing days. I share my mad dreams of a great future.
When we get to the hardware store I follow dad wherever he goes. The store itself bores me to tears but I’m with my old man so all is right in the world. He sees someone he knows. Dad introduces me as if I am someone of great importance, not just some snotty little kid. (It was always like this with my Dad. It makes quite an impression on a child to be treated like an equal among grown ups. I wasn't just part of the scenery or a novelty but another living breathing human being who just happened to be much younger than the other people. Also my father didn't keep secrets from me. As soon as I was old enough to handle the truth of something he flat out told me. When I was little I just thought that he stayed in Buenos Aires for six months during his time as a merchant marine. But as a teenager Dad told me that the reason he stayed for six months was that he shacked up there with a woman. Well it was the truth so why not tell me. That's the way Dad looked at things and that's why I've always leveled with my own children.)
So Dad completes his transaction at the hardware store and as it's near lunch time we head down toward the Berkeley Pier for lunch. It's a treat to go out to lunch with Dad. Mom and my big brother are somewhere else so it's just us. I've got the old man to myself. This makes me feel special. Dad has a way of making both my brother and I feel -- at various times -- as if we're special. I guess cause he figures we are. When someone treats you like you deserve good things it makes you feel all warm inside and worthy of any fortune that finds you. (I went on to take some bad bumps and almost ruin my whole life a few times but one thing that got me through was that Dad believed me and I wanted to live up to his faith.)
After lunch we watch the fishing boats come in. Again, not my idea of great time but I'm with the old man so safe from all the harm and cares of the world. He talks to some of the men coming off the boats, many of whom he knows, and arranges to go fishing the next weekend maybe with me in tow. "Okay sonny boy," he says at last, "let's get going." We head to the truck and the drive home.
I resume my imaginary backyard heroics and dad disappears back into the house. Big brother comes home and obliges me buy tossing the football. It's cool to have someone slinging the ball to me, especially since my brother is a strapping lad six and a half years my senior. He's way up in high school and has a deep voice and reads big books and knows a lot of new stuff. Owing to our age difference there's little competition between us. I'm sure he resents me a little bit since I can be such a monumental brat and one who's been spoiled by the old man more than he's been. But most of all big bro is protective of me and proud of my spirit, guile and unabashed sense of humor. That means a lot to me too. I've got these really neat older males looking out for me. You can't beat that.
Now we all gather around the dining room table to noisily and quickly inhale a meal. There isn't a lot of chitchat, just noisy smacking and the clatter of utensils and plates colliding. After dinner we sit around the TV in time for Jackie Gleason and plenty of yuks. I struggle mightily to stay awake long enough to watch Have Gun Will Travel too. I doze a little toward the end of the program.
I'm only be pretending to be sound asleep when Dad carries me to bed. I like the ride. Mom tucks me in and I quickly fall into a deep contented sleep.