Saturday, March 9, 2013

So we’re playing with LEGOs. Star Wars LEGOs, in case there was any question. When asked about the mess, Serena claimed they were doing “freehand” LEGOs (or, as she described it, "without following directions") which, though it was an impressive description, amounted to a large, choke-able mess. And seeing all those little pieces in disarray reminded me to go and google “infant Heimlich” the next time I’m in front of the Big Book of Everything. 

I had these LEGOs all organized, once, in separate, pre-assigned Ziploc baggies, so that the various speeders and starships and whatnot could be re-made without having to pick through the plastic soup. (Seriously. They should market a “Death Star Trash Compactor” and just sell a six pound box of random pieces.) The kids were making a mess just trying to pluck out the little characters to add to their “freehand” battle structures, and I pulled out all the droids and quoted aloud, as every Dad does, “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” To which Keaton responded, “Ben said a lie.”

So it’s clear he’s been thinking about it.

I could hardly believe my ears when he said it. So I asked him why he thought Obi-Wan lied, and he said, “You mean, Ben?” (In Keaton’s Star Wars, these things are different somehow.) 

“Yeah, Ben. Why do you think Ben lied?” and the kid just shrugged. I pressed him on it, but he wouldn’t give me an answer. I wanted to talk about it, but I didn’t know how to broach the subject that sometimes you have to lie; like when you’re hiding Jews in the basement and the Nazis are banging on your door, or when your wife asks if the pants make her butt look big, or anything about Santa Claus, or if you’re smuggling robots with the enemy’s secret plans to the ultimate battle station in the universe, or whatever. Anyway, telling a 4 year old that sometimes you just have to lie struck me as, well, unwise. So I just let it go. For now.

And it had never occurred to me that Obi-wan -er, Ben, actually lied, there. The old Jedi was just doing what he had to do, which was The Right Thing. But to a kid, it was very clear on the face of it: it was a lie. And I thought that this was all good. And God bless Star Wars, because there are a lot worse circumstances that one could get stuck in to have to learn that lesson. And again, later that night, at bedtime, another probing question about the mysterious death of Dads.

“Do Dads go to heaven when they get old?”

And I just said, “Yes.” And then added, too tired for anything else, “Let’s all plan on meeting up, there. Sound good?” And I kissed him goodnight, and went out. Not really ever wanting to die, at least while he was around, because I wasn't sure either of us could handle it.

Tomorrow is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 74, and he’s been gone 9 years now, and not a day has passed since that I haven't thought about him. I’m sure my boy knows this, from the photo on the kitchen calendar, and he most likely is perplexed by why I've been stringing him along, not coming flat out and saying that, yes, we’re all food for worms, boy. But I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.

My Dad’s dad died when my Dad was just 12, and he never talked about it. Though I’m sure, of course, that our relationship suffered that loss as long as we both lived together. I know nothing about that grandfather, except that he and my Dad shared a middle name. And when I was going through my parents’ stuff, after they were both gone, I found this photo:

And there is no note, no inscription. But I am going to hang it alongside the photos of all the other deceased relatives. And I’m just going to lie to everyone and claim that that guy, that smiling guy in the suit looking off to the horizon behind the cameraman who couldn't keep the lens in focus -that’s him. That’s the grandfather I never met, and he was a helluva guy. Because there is no one alive in this world to tell me that it’s not, or that he wasn’t.