I was recently given a photo of myself and my father, taken a long time ago. I was tiny – in a fat sort of way, admittedly – and I was wrapped in blankets, forming a type of busy, bouffant swirl of flannel. My father was holding me, standing in front of a mirror. I was gazing at my reflection, much in the way a kitten would. I suspect the feather toys and laser pointers were somewhere nearby.
I did not know then what kind of father he was – the complex of goodness and strength that frustrates all definition. I had no idea what love, pride or gratitude were: the pillars of devotion . I only knew that I was safe, warm and utterly content. I was also probably hungry too, but that doesn’t enter into this essay.
When this photo was taken, father had just finished with his disc jockey duties, having left KCSB-FM with as many jazz records as he could carry under his arm – well, it’s an image I like to hold on to, anyway. Regardless, they are now mine, and few things are better, I must say, than listening to Gerry Mulligan on a scarlet vinyl Fantasy record. I have a picture of him on my wall, wearing a sharp-cornered jacket, poised behind his microphone. The ratings for ‘Nick’s Nitecap’ must have been off the charts.
Shortly after this photo was taken, father would have begun his career in television, as a video-tape editor. First using scissors, then eventually computers, he would splice together scenes from The Hollywood Palace, variety shows for Julie Andrews and Alice Cooper, The Wide World of Sports, the KABC News, Good Morning America. I don’t know how many Emmys he’s won, but that pleases me in a way, to lose count of one’s father’s awards.
But no matter how many winged, alloyed ladies my parents have displayed at home, surely these accolades are not enough. During my life, I have tried to add more. But it doesn’t amount to more than the affection and dedication that has become a part of me. I do wish it could be more. I am so proud of my father’s kindness, talent, knowledge, experience, his outrageous willingness to do anything for us, that I wish with all my heart that it could be more.
That unknown day would likely have been forgotten if it had not been for that black and white square of film stock. And from that time when he held me up to that confusing mirror, to this year’s Father’s Day, I can say without a doubt that he has never let me down.