She glances at the photo, and the pilot light of memory flickers in her eyes. ~Frank Deford
This morning, while rummaging through my desk at the office, I stumbled on the printed program from my father’s funeral. He died in 2009 and, for some reason, I’d kept the little memento in my desk drawer. I’d forgotten it was there; so, to come unexpectedly face to face with Daddy—at the office, of all places—something inside me just tuned up, and I cried.
Somehow, in my romance writer’s mind, thoughts of Daddy dredged up a memory of something he and I shared, something that I realized ended—the sharing of it, anyway—when he died.
What was that something? A fantasy that my father unwittingly ignited inside me long ago. Goodbear.
Since he is a real person, I won’t divulge Goodbear’s first name. I wrote about him long ago in another blog, using a fictitious first name, but today he blossomed in my mind and my heart once again with the sight of Daddy’s funeral program, and I want to think about him for a while.
Goodbear was an army buddy of my father’s during World War II. I first saw him years ago while browsing through my parents’ scrapbook. Although the album was filled with many, many black and white photographs taken during Daddy’s army days, Goodbear’s picture stood out among the others. And, here I was—this young girl who lived in dreams with her books and writing and drawing—having a crush on an illusion in a sepia snap shot from long ago.
Back then, I suppose I liked him because he was different. He wasn’t a blond, home-town boy like the other photos. There was just something--something special--about him.
Today, as a woman, I know what it is about Goodbear that appealed and continues to appeal to me. Sure, as an adult, I appreciate his lithe body as he stands perpetually frozen in time with his leg causally bent and his hand resting on his hip. I shiver a little at his nice form, his dark complexion. I think, just as I did when I first noticed him, that he is so very handsome, so very sexy. Seems my appreciation for the dark men started long, long ago.
But every time I look at the photograph, my attention is drawn to his face—his sort of sad, knowing, serene eyes and the gentle smile. So relaxed, yet so unique from the other boisterous young men in the other photos. As though Goodbear had a secret, as though he KNEW someone would look at his photo one day and wish they knew him. As though he knew I would see him and wonder about him.
Daddy didn’t know much about Goodbear, only that he was American Indian from Oklahoma. The seemingly quiet fellow would playfully torture the Japanese cooks by grabbing them and thumping them on their heads. And that’s about all my father recalled of Goodbear. It had been, after all, over sixty years.
But every time I saw my father, we still talked about his army days, and he still recounted the same details about my secret crush, Goodbear. Daddy seemed to enjoy the telling of it all, and I treasured the hearing of it.
Well, Daddy is gone now. And, only this morning, did the truth settle sadly into my heart that, with my father went Goodbear as well. I realized that, with his passing, Daddy and Goodbear are both mere memories. I see now that the mysterious young dark-headed man was not only a fantasy of mine, but a link between me and my father’s past. Goodbear served as a piece of memory that my Dad loved to relive, of a time when he was young; and it offered me a brilliant photograph of the man my father was BEFORE he became Daddy.
So, Goodbear, I owe you, man. I knew, and I think—somehow, mystically—you knew, too, that you’d serve a purpose in my life, somehow, somewhere, down the road. Everybody does, I think—serve a purpose in other lives, that is. Wherever you are now, Goodbear, thank you.