America

The below video’s quality is bad, the angle is wrong, the lighting leaves much to be desired, and the singing is BAD, but I needed to share it with you tonight – right now.

But first…

Do you have someone in your life who has seen your ugliness—who has seen you at your absolute worst—and loves you anyway? I do. That someone, for me, is my father. Or, as I call him, Dad.

As part of his Father’s Day present, I got Dad two tickets for us to see Jurassic World, the latest installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. I wouldn’t say Dad has gotten frugal in his old age, but these days, he likes to get something for his dollar. And pickings at the movies have been slim as of late. But there’s just something about dinosaurs we can’t seem to pass up.

“I can’t believe you’re going to see Jurassic Park,” Mom said as she kissed Dad goodbye.

“It’s a movie about dinosaurs, Kath. I can’t believe you’re NOT going to see Jurassic Park.”

On the way to the theater, we talked about death. Well, not necessarily death, but the people who’ve left us – my father’s father, my cousin, and other friends and family gone from this world too soon. I mentioned how I still find it hard to believe my cousin, Alanna, lost her fight with breast cancer at 34…how ridiculous it seems that I can’t talk to or hug her.

“Death is final, Lauren,” he said. “That’s why it hurts so much.”

***

Three years ago, I was at the beginning of my graduate school career, had finally moved out of the house into a new apartment comprised solely of cardboard boxes, and was working a job which literally sucked the life out of me. Dad had been calling all week, and it was starting to annoy.

“Hey Smedley,” he said, when I finally picked up.

“What is it, Dad? I’m working.”

“Ah nothing, just wanted to see when you were coming home.”

“I don’t know, Dad. Listen, do we need to talk about this now? I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“Got a lot on your plate, huh?”

I could see him in the kitchen in the house on Elderberry – one hand in his pocket, staring at his feet, probably looking for his glasses.

“Yeah, I’m busy. So what do you need?”

“I just need to talk to you is all.”

“Well…” I said impatiently, “Talk!”

“No, no. I need to see you. Not over the phone stuff.”

“Is it important?”

“Kind of.”

“Really important or you need help with the tablet important?”

“Real important.”

“Fine, I’ll come home tomorrow. I gotta go.” I hit the end button halfway through him saying, “Love you.” and went back to my work.

I remember being so fucking annoyed with him. I assumed the “important” thing was vacation related. Ever since I was young, Dad loved planning summer vacations with the family. Sometimes, I felt it was the very thing that kept him going. The only thing he loved more than planning a vacation was fitting something into the car Mom declared as “never going to fit”. But with the advent of adulthood, work schedules, and significant others, our family vacations had been less and less frequent.

Dad understood. In the beginning, he enjoyed crossing places off his bucket-list with Mom. But, every so often, I’d get a call or a text asking if I could take ten or twelve days here and there. I’d always be bothered, “Dad! I work – I can’t just take ten days off.”

It was dark when I arrived at the house on Elderberry that night. Dad was in the den, as per usual. I flicked on the lights without so much as a “hi”, and plopped down on the ottoman in front of him.

“So what’s this important news?” I said, using air quotes for “important”.

I don’t remember much after that.

Early. CyberKnife. Chemo. Recovery.

Dad was sick.

***

It’s been almost four years since Dad’s surgery, and most days I forget there was a time when he wasn’t 100%.

As we left the theater tonight, we laughed about the predictability of the plot, the corny nature of the jokes, and debated about which coming attractions looked promising.

“But did you have fun?” I asked.

“Yeah, I did.” he smiled.

Just as we turned onto Jericho Turnpike, we heard the humming of Simon and Garfunkel. Dad turned the volume up instinctively, and we both began to sing, “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together/I’ve got some real estate here in my bag/So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies/And walked off to look for America.”

On those vacations, Dad didn’t just teach me about music, he taught me about time spent with family, about how to make memories, about life.

As we sang together, driving over the empty Long Island streets, I couldn’t help but think how one day I’d remember this. How one day, all I’d be able to do is remember Dad. But damn it if I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

We sang America to the end. Then, we got a bonus: Mrs. Robinson.

It was then, I decided to take a video because I HAD to preserve this somehow. So, even though the below video’s quality is bad, the angle is wrong, the lighting leaves much to be desired, and the singing is BAD, but I needed to share it with you tonight – right now.

And I’ll also share this: hug the people you love. That’s all. No more, no less.

About LJSharks

Lauren J. Sharkey is the Marketing & Web Coordinator, and also maintains the title of Managing Editor, for Kaylie Jones Books. Additionally, she serves as the Creative Nonfiction Editor of Reservoir Journal. Her debut novel, INCONVENIENT DAUGHTER, is forthcoming in 2020, and loosely based on her experience as a Korean American adoptee.

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