Monday, September 17, 2007


I’m a 45 years-old man and I just spent a couple of minutes clutching my Teddy bear. Ridiculous!? The bear is a souvenir of a recent trip to Peru with Kate. I found him in a shop for Peruvian handicrafts. He is extremely soft–it’s amusing to see people pick him up for the first time: They see him on my sofa and kind of laugh. Then, almost invariably, they bend over to pick him up for a better look for they know me and they know that his presence there implies he’s something special. The moment they first touch him they discover that specialness. He is extraordinarily soft! It is almost unbelievable how soft he is. His fur is made from baby alpaca.

I bought him as much because I knew I could never communicate the unbelievable sensuousness of touching him as a desire of finding an especially worthy small child on whom to bestow him. However, he has grown on me, gamely and genially sitting as he does in the middle of one of my sofas. And he’s become a conversation piece and a happy reminder of a remarkable trip. So he may remain in my company for quite some time to come.

I named him ‘Peru Bear’, both to acknowledge his provenance and as an homage to my dad, who from my earliest memories, called me “Pooh Bear” after the character in the A.A. Milne books, which I adored as a child and of which I demanded incessant repeated readings from both my parents. (My childhood Teddy bear was named ‘Pooh Bear’, too, for that very reason.)

I am listening to the voice of my father. Tears are running down my face. It is playing back on the little digital voice recorder I purchased to record his stories when he was first diagnosed. Alas, circumstances being as they were, I have just a couple of hours. What I have is extremely precious. The portion that I am listening to was recorded December 3rd, 2006, just over three months before he died. He is chatting with Kate’s parents in my parents’s bedroom. He is his typical self: Charming, warm, entertaining and fascinating. People are chuckling and laughing. His topics range broadly, from his early years with my mother to working with Louis Leakey. Stories that I always just kind of took in stride but now realize in part define just how remarkable a man he really was.

At worst, I cried inconsolably. I felt like the ground was falling away from under me.

Grieving alone, when there is nobody to hold or console you, is doubly miserable. I ran and grabbed my bear. I needed to hold on to something warm and comforting. I clutched the bear for a few minutes as I cried deeply and the tears surged.

I miss my dad terribly.

The worst part of watching my dad die was the feeling of absolute powerlessness, of wanting to do something–anything to help him, to prolong his time with me just a bit, fundamentally selfish though that was. Listening to him now brought back those feelings. There is nothing more horrifying that watching the life being inexorably and irrevocably drained from someone you love.

I have searched on the Web for the phrase “I miss my dad”. I found thousands of blog posts, essays, poems and other messages from people of all ages who deeply miss their own dads. And I have been told that my blog induced some of its readers to hours of tears as it evoked them to relive the losses of their own parents. I am somewhat comforted knowing that I am far from alone in the strength of my feelings. But I realize, too, that I am afflicted with a gaping rent in my psyche that can never be mended. The loss is simply too great.

I think about my dad every day. I want to talk to him. To see him. To see his face light up and hear him say with his distinctive, cheery intonation, “Hi Brian! How are you?” when I walk in to his home. Pressing ‘play’ doesn’t begin to come close.