In which I sit in our burgundy ’89 Volvo, the one Mom kept so guarded and clean that it looked no older than a year when it was sold last month. Being the youngest, I often sat cramped in the “way back” on family vacations to the cabin or Sun Valley — looking out the rear window at the cars that followed us, conjuring up my own stories of their occupants.
But now the picture displayed in the window is a rolling movie of Mom and Dad’s retirement. They play tennis and host dinners, but they also embark on fanciful journeys to the tropics in hot air balloon and helicopter. Dad seems distant in all the scenes, not full of vacation glee that was such his trademark. He is separate from the experience.
Soon I’m talking to Dad through the window (much like Frank, his favorite singer, in Dream 21), but there is less talking and more showing. He pulls from a black satchel his life’s creations: the magazine he built with his bare hands and ran successfully for more than 15 years, photos of the families that he counseled while bishop, photos of our family, a diagram illustrating the mountains of accumulated trash picked up from the gutter or park while on his daily jogs. And then he shows me stuff I’m sure he never created, but could have, given more time: stacks of fiction literature, magic tricks, art, a pencil-sketched flip book in which the most exquisite lettering I’d ever seen dances across the pages. As he reveals this last creation I break into uncontrollable tears.
The image on the window fades and is replaced with a black and white film, already in progress. Struggling to recall its title, I soon realize it’s nothing I’ve seen before. It looks like a Rat Pack flick, only Dad’s in it, and all his friends. I can’t make out the plot, but there’s a lot of David Mamet-style dialogue. It’s clever and funny. At one point in the film the door of the longest coupe in the world opens and out walks a 15-year-old James in a white Casablanca blazer. I wake.