Happy Father’s Day!
Here is a short short I wrote back in, geez … 2004. I’ve polished it up some.
A MATCH FOR PAPA
by Jill S. Behe
Papa always carried a pipe. It was either in a pocket, cupped in-hand, or stuck in his mouth.
Most of the time, it wasn’t even lit.
After supper every night, he’d go have a smoke in the backyard. He’d lay his napkin neatly beside his empty plate, get up from the table, and give Mama a big loud kiss. They’d smile at each other. “Excellent meal, my beautiful Bella,” he’d say. Then he would go to the cupboard, get his tobacco pouch, fill up his pipe, and head out the back door.
Mama would stop clearing the table, and get a match from the little glass dish beside the stove. “Here, Paulie. Go give this to Papa. He forgot to take one with him.”
Papa would get about halfway down the sidewalk before turning back, patting his pockets, pipe in his mouth. He’d look up to see me running toward him with a matchstick in my hand, and get a big grin on his face. “Ah, my boy Paulie. You’re a life saver.”
It was a long trip for my short, five-year-old legs, and I’d be breathless. “Here’s your match, Papa.”
Bending down, he’d ruffle my hair before taking the stick from me. We’d spend a little time walking around the backyard together, and talking about stuff.
Once I got older, I realized he did it on purpose. He knew letting me bring him a match would make me feel like I was doing a great thing for him, and that feeling of accomplishment and helpfulness was important to my development into a man. He also wanted the bond between us to be stronger.
He worked so hard and such long hours, those few moments together were about all we had. Even after I knew what was going on, I still made sure I always had matches with me, just in case he needed one.
I loved that man, and he loved me. If I had to name a hero, it would be him. I was so proud he was my papa and that I had his name. He died when I was twelve. There’s no getting over the pain of that loss (though it does fade some); but you never-ever forget.
Eventually, I got married and had a Paulie of my own. I didn’t smoke, so I wasn’t able to play the same game, so created one of our own. We had ‘catch.’
After supper, I’d give my wife a kiss, and thank her for the meal. Paulie would grab our baseball gloves out of the box on the back porch, and hand me mine. “Here’s your glove, Papa,” he’d say. We’d throw the ball back and forth, and talk about–stuff.
Brought back memories.
Now, he’s got a Paulie. I haven’t asked him if he’s going to carry on the tradition. I guess it’s a little early yet; my grandson’s only a year old. Still, I’ll have to ask if he’s thought about it.
Times are hard, especially nowadays. Fathers and sons need to get along. We don’t always bond like the women do with their hugs and kisses and crying and carrying on. We men have our own code.
My Papa was the best man on earth, in my eyes. My son has told me I’m his hero. That makes a man proud and humbles him at the same time. All fathers should feel that, at least once in their lives. A boy-child is special. He’s the one who will carry on the family name. If he’s ashamed of his father, he won’t care if he continues the legacy.
I took the time to know my son. Studied him from birth up. Learned his personality, likes and dislikes. To this day, I make sure he knows how much he means to me, how much I love him … how glad I am that he’s mine.