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Once Upon A Time

Dad, still in his work clothes, reading to my brother. I was 11 and proud owner of a Brownie Starflash Camera.
Once upon a time, there was a man who loved stories. My dad read all kinds of stories to us kids: fairy tales and folk tales, classics like Pinocchio and Bambi, poetry and Shakespeare. For years, bedtime included a story or a chapter—usually something wholesome and satisfying, but Dad was known to occasionally put us to bed with one of the Appalachian Jack Tales—deliciously terrifying but not particularly conducive to gentle sleep! Pinocchio was pretty horrifying, too, truth to tell, and even some of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories had an element of heartbreak that could make me toss and turn when the lights were off. But content was secondary to the constant of a loving parent taking the time to read a bedtime story, and Dad and Mom took turns providing that. We were lucky! Daddy read to us once we were adults, too—passages or poems that touched or tickled him. Most memorable, he’d read us things that made him laugh. Reading Mark Twain or other favorite humorists aloud, he would laugh until he turned red, gasping for air, tears streaming down his cheeks! When we were kids, in addition to the books he read us, he’d make up stories—tales of Any Face who could stretch and remake his face to look like anyone he wanted to in the service of some nefarious scheme, or stories about his twin brother George. Now, we knew Daddy didn’t have a twin (or a brother for that matter) but he could almost convince us—I might have been particularly gullible—especially when he’d come home pretending to BE George, spinning wild explanations for his long absences or the failure of a family record to prove George’s existence. And then there was the gorilla in the attic. Hadn’t we noticed the rattles and groans from the attic—especially on stormy nights? Well, those weren’t just old house sounds. That was the gorilla who hated storms and tried to escape when the wind grew wild. Some of my roots as a writer surely come from the literature and the nonsense Daddy shared. He was a man who loved both words and silences, was comfortable with both and generous with both. Today is the one year anniversary of my dad’s death. The yahrzeit it is called in Jewish tradition, this anniversary of one's death. The occasion is marked by the lighting of a 24-hour candle, reading of the Kaddish and remembering the one who has died. I’m not Jewish, though some of my family are, but I have a candle going, I will be definitely be remembering not only my beloved father but also his father, my dear Grandpa, who died exactly twenty-five years to the day before my dad. My own special remembrance this day will include something I know Daddy would find fitting. Today, in my father’s honor, I will read someone a story. Once upon a time…. Read More 
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