I remember the cigar box full of animals; hippos and big cats, elephants, horses, monkeys. They lay so snug and intertwined that only my Father could make them fit back into the box without a tail or a slender foot left sticking out. His eyes would soften when I asked, “Daddy, can we play with the animals?” He would bring them down off the high shelf and lay them on the kitchen table. He would lean in towards them, and I would too. Then we would marvel at the wee snouts and fine details of his treasure. I always tried to be very careful. I knew as a child that to hurt something he loved would be to hurt him also. He seemed too sensitive to take hurts. When we were leaning over the table I felt like I knew him, like he was my friend.

I once refolded a gum wrapper, inserted it back into the package and offered it to him. "Hey Dad, want a piece of gum?" He looked so eager and thankful that when he realized I had played a trick on him and his face fell, I thought, "What have I done to this man?"

In high school, when he thought I hated him, I was secretly coveting the giant orange sweater of his that my Mom had tried to throw away. It was shaggy and misshapen with some holes, but I had seen my Father wearing it on chilly autumn days. He used it to paint in, to read in, and to be an artist in his head. It seemed my Mother was trying to throw away the best part of him. I remember sitting in my room in the big droopy sweater, trying to preserve his essence.