It seemed like everything my dad loved—every small happiness to which he steadfastly clung throughout his life—had a way of slipping away. From his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers moving to Los Angeles to his beloved Cleveland Browns packing up and heading to Baltimore. When the Browns’ franchise was resurrected under a new owner, I thought for sure my dad would be thrilled. Instead, he refused to watch or root for them because they weren’t the “real” Browns.
He was a devotee of a particular model of Schick electric razor. After it was discontinued, he reluctantly became a devotee of another model that also was discontinued. He took both repeatedly for service, and when those died, he complained about every subsequent razor he owned and about how they just weren’t the same.
Sameness. Yes, he had a fondness for sameness. The same pair of blue Hagar slacks he wore on weekends. The same pair of plain-toe, black Hanover Derbies he sported for work. The same vacation we took every year to the New Cavalier hotel in Virginia Beach, Va. I had some of my best memories as a child there, jumping off the high and low diving boards at the Cavalier’s swimming pool, and playing in the adjacent playground on a jungle gym fashioned in the shape of a steam train. I’d climb up through the skeletal cab and chimney, completely ignoring how the iron bars nearly seared my skin under the August sun, just to reach the top. There was a certain freedom to be found there, not to mention a killer view of the pool and beach below.
When I learned a few years ago that the hotel was torn down, the emotion I felt hit me square in the chest. I was in disbelief watching footage of the wrecking ball on YouTube blasting my childhood memories to rubble. As sad as I was, I know my dad would have been devastated. That, too, was gone.
If you’ve lived even a little, you know that everything moves, everything changes. It must. It’s the only certainty. I often wonder how different his life would have been if he had understood this sooner—understood it at all. Every change is an invitation for us to move, to grow, to transform, to find new things to love.
It’s bittersweet to remember myself perched high atop those monkey bars, the ocean breeze cooling my cheeks, and sometimes, my dad down below on the scorching sand loudly sharing his concern that I could fall. The metaphor could not have been more apt. We’re all here living on this barreling locomotive called Earth. If we can’t stop it, then we might as well enjoy the ride.