For my 6th birthday, my father made them of scrap wood—two by fours, both four feet long, with chocks of wood to stand on.
I lean against the garage, place my left foot on one chock, then swing my right foot onto the other. I hug each board and tilt forward a bit, till I feel his hand on my back. I lift my head and gaze into a distance I have never seen before.
Sunday morning, stilts stashed under the back porch, he and I scale two tiers of granite steps, up to the huge oak doors of Saint Paul’s. He rushes inside to grab his usher’s badge. Holding tight to the railing, I turn around and look to the horizon, intrigued by all the crossroads in my neighborhood I am eager to travel.
Dad returns to greet folks with a pat on the back, and “How’s the family?” His childhood home, muted in smog, sat atop the heavy metal slag of East Chicago. But he’s at home now, in this place, with God as his surrogate Father, always sober, who has his back. Dad’s obligation, I think, is to return the favor; at the final blessing, as the organ blast announces the recessional, he steps into the empty vestibule in order to swing open the massive doors.
Today, the horizon fogs, as I watch a rain storm lower itself over the mountain. It occurs to me that rain continually moves from cloud to earth, and earth to cloud, so it never really leaves.
Jean Cassidy June 23, 2020