Come Home. Love Dad
Introducing Sam Reuben – Inventor, Poet, Husband ... Father
I am writing this as a tribute to benevolence. As an attempt to immortalize sweet eccentricity, masculine sobriety, and the sublime security that results from having had a home. A real home with a mother who expected us to wash and dry the dishes after dinner, a father who cleaned out the gutters and chopped down the tree in the front yard when it died from Dutch Elm disease, and a telephone closet where, tucked between a camel hair coat and a navy wool jacket, we could exchange intimacies with our best friends and write otherwise forgotten telephone numbers on the wall.
I am writing this knowing that on my desk there are plots to be invented, characterizations to be worked out and manuscripts to be edited, but wanting, instead to take off my shoes and feel the cool sand of my childhood wiggling between my toes.
Mostly, though I am writing this because, lately, my father has been popping into my mind, unexpectedly, and insistently.
In little things, like which way to put the toilet paper on the roll (the flap goes over the top); and in big things like finding out that my Uncle Jack, my father’s older brother, has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, too.
About the toilet paper, though, I had been living in New York for many years when one day, on a visit home, my father lifted up a roll of toilet paper, flipped it around and reinserted it in place. “The flap comes over the top,” he told me with an unmistakable air of omnipotence, at which I nodded my commitment to integrate this new knowledge into the rest of my life.
What I particularly like about this interchange is that my father never explained to my why the flap goes over the top. And I, of course, never asked. Over the years I did remember, however, that Samuel Reuben said “over the top,” and I have brought this cultural mandate into the future with me. When I visit a stranger’s house and the toilet paper is improperly inserted, I take it out, flip it over, and put it back. Then I think of my father, smile, and have a brief, conspiratorial visit with my past.
Just the other day, when some members of the younger generation asked me at a lecture to pass on some important bit of wisdom, I carefully explained both about the right way to insert toilet paper and the reason why. And I have great hopes that as these young men and women proceed in their lives to become college professors, sales clerks, philosophers, or kings, they will be carefully rearranging any recalcitrant rolls of toilet paper that come their way, and that every time they do so, they will think about me, thinking about my father, and they will know I am smiling.
And they will smile, too.
Shelly Reuben is an Edgar-nominated author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit shellyreuben.com
Copyright © 2008, Shelly Reuben