Thursday, December 11, 2014


My Dad died in December, 2006. I thought I'd remember him by sharing a moment in which he showed paternal genius with me. I was seven going on eight. A red-haired schoolmate at Saint Athanasius in West View, Pennsylvania told me something terrible.

"There's no Santa," he said. "Your parents put presents under the tree."

I ran home quite upset and told my Mom. She said I should ignore the kid. "It's okay to believe," she said at first. After some persistent badgering on my part, she reluctantly agreed with him that Saint Nick wasn't real. "I suppose you're old enough to know," Mom said.

I walked mournfully into the dining room and saw Dad repairing pickups on a Les Paul. Disassembled guitars were spread across the table. Dad drank coffee from a cup that looked like a large soup bowl with a handle. I sipped my little cup, which was ninety percent milk and sugar, and ten percent coffee, because Mom was concerned about stunting my growth.

Dad’s most cherished guitar was his Ramirez from Spain. It rested in the center of the table, freshly polished. This was the guitar father scrimped and saved for, the flamenco instrument for Dad’s Segovia pieces. He played solos of Romance De Amore, Lagrima, and Malaguena.

“One day, this will be your guitar, son,” he said. I felt privileged to be in a family where music was in the center. Constant guitarists came in and out, filling our home with full, harmonious notes.
“Something on your mind?” Dad asked.

“Yeah. Daddy, is there really a Santa Claus?”

“Why do you ask? Of course there is.” He tightened the screws on the humbuckers. "I need a break. Want to walk with me to the car?”

“Okay, Dad.”

Dad brushed a coating of snow off the black vinyl roof of his Caddy with an ice scraper. We drove to the brewery at Horseshoe Bend for Christmas spirits in his white Cadillac. I loved the big tires and cushy seats. I felt like I was floating on wind as we rode down Center Avenue, sliding around the icy bends.

“Is Santa real, Dad? Tell me the truth.”

"What kind of a question is that? Why do you doubt?" Dad tapped out a five-four Brubeck rhythm on the steering wheel.

"Daddy, you can't fool me. Mom admitted there's no Santa.”

“She’s crazy. Who else?”

“My teacher.”

“What do they know?”

“Mom said I was old enough to know the truth. So did Sister Antonita, and nuns can't lie. Can they?"

"They're women. Don’t listen to women.”

“Why not?”

“Ever since time began, a woman got the man to eat the apple. There are certain things I can tell you in secret, and you'll understand. What’s your father?"

“A genius.”

“That’s right. Good boy.”

“So Santa is real?

"It’s an established fact. Santa Claus was a real person, Saint Nicholas. He was from Turkey. He gave gifts to children and performed miracles of healing the sick. And what happens to saints when they die, son?"

"They go to heaven?"

"Good. So his spirit never really died, right?"


Dad looked into my eyes with his dark stare. "Now, don't you think, on the one day every year when people remember him, the spirit of Saint Nicolas would return?"

“That makes sense, Dad.”

"Don't even try to explain this to your mother, or Sister Amnesia, or whatever the hell her name is. Unbelievers don’t understand the metaphysical. Especially women."

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Your welcome, son.” He looked at me with his big brown eyes and smiled a roguish grin.

God, I loved him.

I supposed God rewarded me because come Christmas morning, Santa brought me the Disney plaster-of-paris set I wanted. I created the seven dwarfs and watched them come to life. If that wasn’t fantastic enough, I saw a purple Schwinn under the tree. Dad and Mom grinned at me. For once, the new socks and underwear didn’t bother me.



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