There was a game David played with his sons. They’d climb into our morning bed while he pretended to sleep. On the right side of the bed, concealed within the spread, he’d lie and wait. He’d quiet his breath, and the game began.
His sons would do their best to avoid capture while attempting to reach the space between us, even though they’d climb over his conspicuous mound hiding under the sheets, risking seizure. Despite the eight-year old’s clandestine skills, the four-year old cannot yet play this game silently. He first patters into the bathroom, a dribbling stream echoes through the hall before advertising his presence with poorly muffled squeals. Dave always hears him coming. Dylan wants to be captured just as much as he shutters from anticipation, you could hear the conflict fluttering inside him. Suddenly thick arms clamp tight around his small body and the revolution begins. “Steamroller! Errummm.” Dave’s baritone resonance produces grinding sounds of paving machines as he rolls over him one way, then the other, tickling him in the interval, rupturing with laughter. A pure riff of emotion, waking his brother to join in the morning crush. Arms and legs, kicking and thrashing, ensnared by the weight of him.
“The boys are so funny and growing so fast. I want to play with them all day, I like to play too.”— Dave, 5/24/1999.
My sons are 23 and 27 now and can’t be sure where or when the ambush is coming. But it always does. When they were small, it was easy for Dave to raise them over his head, resting them on his strong shoulders, to stand taller than they could be. Sometimes, he’d grip their calves firm, and gently fold with them into the turbulent sea, re-emerging through a ring of white effervescence. Dave hadn’t known what to call it then, a deep appreciation of the present, a quiver that something was about to change, but for them it was child’s play to roll in the deep and pop up safe.
Now, when the boys are ambushed, thrust into a strange and unfamiliar world, and tossed off balance until they can’t stand it, until everything is at stake and life feels unbearably acute, they reach for his playlist, immersing in the music he revered. For Dave, music synthesized words and riffs with emotions he could not understand, proclaiming insights about himself that were otherwise wrapped in too much pain to hold onto. Poetic tunes tranquilized his blinding fate. The hundreds of recorded cassette tapes and CD’s in his stereo cabinet were his sacred anthem. When I hear waves of romantic preludes, jazz fusion, hard rock and new age ballads surge from our son’s instruments, my own faith is awakened and I know he is there, rolling in the spread, with his abiding grip clutching their resolve.
“I want my kids to grow up to be good boys. I love them so dearly, they are our treasures.”— Dave, 9/13/1998.
© 2020, Deborah Garcia