Your father, who is sick, will be waiting for you when you get off the train. It is almost 1 AM and he still made it out of the house, into his car, and then across a bridge in middle of the night to come pick you up.
When you enter through the passenger side door, he'll ask you if you mind driving home. He had just taken his medicine and you don't mind. You'll help him into the passenger seat, buckle him in, and shut the door.
He'll recline the seat back a little more than he's used to and a lot more than you're used to seeing. He'll shut his eyes and start talking. He'll ask you about work. Then he'll ask you to tell him a story*.
You talk for what feels like forty-five minutes. He'll nod off to sleep every now and then and when you stop talking he'll wake up and ask you why there isn't any noise coming out of your face. You laugh a tiny laugh because you don't want your father to shake and stir in his seat. You know he's uncomfortable and you wish the front of his SUV had a plow attached so you could move through traffic easier.
You wish you could fly or teleport or had some kind of device that would make it easier for your father. But all you have is your voice. So you keep talking. You're not even sure what you're saying at this point because your mind is somewhere else. You're thinking of that final scene from Spike Lee's 25th Hour.
It's the scene where Edward Norton's father is talking to him about the life he's going to have after he runs away from going to prison like he's supposed to. His father is being a father to him in that moment and in your moment, you're being a father to your own father. The words continue to fall out of your mouth like bricks off the side of the building and in your periphery you can see him smirk and smile every now and then. He's drifting off to sleep but you don't care, you know he needs this. So you keep talking. You keep moving your lips.
Your father, next to you, barely conscious and you constantly talking, filling the air in the car with stale-cigarette breath and words of encouragement. You glance into the rear-view mirror and you don't really know how this happened but the person staring back at you isn't the boy you grew up as, no, it's the man you've grown to become.
There's a piece of you that feels upset about this. That your father's face is coming out in your own, that you have all the same fault lines that he does. That you smile the same way he does. But there's something else inside of you, there's a piece of you that shines. A star you got from him.
It's the way you love and take care of people when they need it. It's the way you're talking to him and how you would probably do this for anyone. He didn't need to be your father to care about his illness, he didn't have to be your father to make you pass the time and ease his pain with a story you make up on the spot.
But he is and always will be. And you're his son. A spitting image, unfortunately. But you will learn to live with it.
*[this is the story you told your father] It's going to be great, Dad. I'm going to get a job that I really, really, really like, you know? And I'm going to do great things with my life for once. I'll quit smoking and drinking as much as I do and I know I talk a lot of shit most times but I'll even enter a church without you asking me to. And I'll try my hardest to pray, for you, or mom, or anyone. I'll do it with honesty and truth. I'll continue to stay steadfast and earnest. I won't lie to you anymore. I'll be open with you and we'll have that relationship we used to have, you know? And I'll get older. Yeah, I'll get older and you'll get even older than me. And I'll meet someone and marry them and we'll give you a bunch of weird grandchildren. But you'll love them. You'll tell them all the stories you told me when I was growing up. When they get older you'll tell 'em how much of a tough guy you were in high school and when they're still young you'll tell them how smart you were and are. Sorry, you still are smart. I didn't mean it like that. And we'll all be old and you're going to pass away like all men do and I'll cry because I've always been sensitive and emotional and you'll be looking down at me, smiling and laughing at me the way you always have. And me and your daughter-in-law and your children -- one of them will probably be named after you -- will sit and eat your favorite foods after the funeral. And I'll tell them how you would drop everything for me, my brother, and mom. And how you'd get angry sometimes and how we wouldn't give you credit other times even though we know, deep down, that you deserve it. We'd celebrate and cry and share stories, the same way you taught me to. And when I go and pass on the way the man that made me did and the way the man that made him did, my children and grand-children will tell the same stories and make myths out of them. Our legacy will be one wrapped around the spoken and written word and I know you've never liked writing or literature or movies the same way I did but you've always been a storyteller. And it's all your fault I am and it's going to be your fault that future generations of our family will be. Are you awake? Dad? I guess you're asleep. That's alright. You'll be alright.