My second meeting with Dad came when I lived with Mom in an apartment on the outskirts of Miami in 1944. She drove her blue Ford Coupe to a green bench at the bus stop to wait for Dad. A green and silver bus pulled up in a cloud of dust and fumes. Mom pointed to a uniformed figure opening the folding front door, “That’s your Father.”
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Sun burnished the gold braid across his bright white cap. A gold anchor stood in the middle on a dark background. Red, yellow, and blue ribbons with gold medals dangled from the left pocket of his navy-blue jacket that jingled as he stepped off the bus. A tight black triangle at the top with a sharp furrow in the middle of his black tie covered his white shirt. His shiny black shoes beneath navy blue slacks mirrored the sky. He carried a blue suitcase with his right hand wearing a large engraved gold ring.
“Here’s your Daddy,” Mom said.
He looked past her into my eyes with a wide smile, “How old is my little boy?”
“Hi, Daddy,” I said and held up four fingers.
He walked toward me, put down his suitcase, and grabbed me by the waist. He threw me in the air so my head went higher than his, shouted, “Whoopa,” and caught me as I dropped into his large hands and hugged me. I felt warm in his arms.
We drove to our two bedroom white bungalow with a small lawn and red and pink hibiscus along each side of the front door. “I brought you some toys,” he said as he entered, opened his suitcase, and a black model ship made of heavy plastic emerged in his hand. He carefully placed it on the living room carpet. “That’s a model of a battleship. Those large barrels sticking out on the side are sixteen inch guns, the biggest in the Navy. Battleships have more guns than any other ship.” Two more models appeared on the floor. “The bigger one is a cruiser, next to it a destroyer.”
He lifted two more out, “The tanker holds oil and the transport carries soldiers.” His fingers put them into a group. “You can move them in formation across the carpet.”
Watching Dad move the unique models fascinated me, “Thanks for the toys.”
“You can play with them today, but I have to return them to my ship.”
Dad and I had fun pushing the models at different speeds in many formations on the ocean carpet, while Mom watched drinking her iced tea. They went into the kitchen to talk while I played lost in my world of make believe.
Crashing ships into each other, tipping them over, making bumping and banging sounds, I imagined the guns firing shouting, “Boom, boom” and made a swishing sound speeding them over the carpet.
When he had to go we put all the models carefully back into his suitcase and drove him to the bus stop. He picked me up and gave me a kiss before he boarded. I wished he had given Mom a kiss, but he only glanced at her, turned, and said “Goodbye, Hilda.” In a few seconds, the bus roared, kicking up gravel and dirt, and sped away in the sweltering sun as I waved.