For Jerome–born May 15, 1939
I was just one of your children. I wasn’t the oldest and I wasn’t a son. Wasn’t good at sports or confident enough to impress you. I was just one of your children, but you were my hero. The man to whom all others have been compared–none ever as brave, as smart, as strong.
How many days did I watch you bolt your soggy cereal and grab your briefcase, sprinting up the alley to a world I wished I knew? That world symbolized courage and independence, and everything I wanted to be. To be included in it was an honor beyond measure.
On the days we rode together–you carrying my heavy backpack along with your briefcase as we hurried to make up for your lateness–I had you all to myself. We discussed the stories you read in the newspaper, what I was learning in school. When I talked, you would cock your head to one side and look right at me, nodding seriously as if my opinions mattered, as if you had never before heard such profound ideas.
On the days I rode alone, I did my best to show I was worthy of the honor. Bus tickets in the pocket of my red cardigan sweater, I watched carefully out the window for my stop, remembering to ring the bell to let the driver know I wanted off. Two blocks to 3rd and Pine, to the number 2. Hold on to the transfer–pay as you leave. Then off at the school, hoping the other children would see me–infinitely more worldly and sophisticated, able to get where I was going without the assistance of an adult.
Twenty-seven years later, I still feel worldly and sophisticated when I climb the steps of a city bus. Twenty-seven years later, I still think of you every time I do.