The robins are dancing and singing in the yard this morning. I just saw a squirrel lounging in a dogwood branch. In Charlotte this winter, everyone celebrates a day that doesn’t start with rain. Supposed to be in the high-60s, the weather folks say.
Hotchupretty, my father would say.
This evening will mark two months since he died. This morning seemed like the right time to finally click on a tab I’d kept open since January: Tom Junod’s ESPN the Magazine essay about his father.
I’ve been hesitant to read stuff about dads. But last week it was my duty to read everything on the internet (or as much as I could) as the guest editor of the Sunday Long Read newsletter. I can’t thank Don Van Natta and Jacob Feldman enough for the invitation. Holy moly, there’s a lot of good work in the world. The job also came with the opportunity to pick a Sunday Soundtrack song, a favorite lede of the week, a favorite kicker, and a favorite quote. I think my favorite of the favorites is the quote–“You like salami?”–from David Remnick’s profile of Buddy Guy. I’ll remember that forever. Hope you’ll take the time to read and subscribe to the Sunday Long Read.
Late on Saturday night, after we’d already scheduled the newsletter, I joined most everybody else in America and read Sally Jenkins’ incredible essay on her father, Dan, who died last week. I’m still in awe; I don’t know how she did it.
Of course Tom’s ESPN essay is off-the-charts good, too. I wouldn’t expect anything less from one of the best writers of the past half-century. Nobody writes a closing section like he does. I still go back and read the one from the BP oil spill from time to time. His endings are like runaway trains, building and building. He does it again here. I won’t give it away, but just before he lands this one, he drops a simple quote I love, on his father’s gambling philosophy.
“Wait ’til I win,” his father would say.
It’s possible to hate the vice and embrace the optimism, possible to see the flaws of our fathers and still love them.
My dad played the lottery every week. I never do. But I bought a scratch-off ticket on the drive down to spend his last days with him in January. It’s still in my truck, unscratched.