I remember coming home on summer nights when I was in college. I’d open the front door and be greeted by a burst of cool air. Sometimes my father would be in the kitchen, leaning on the countertop with his elbows as he ate his favorite snack —peanut butter crackers and ice-cold milk.
He’d hand me the peanut-butter-smeared knife and I’d smatter a couple of crackers. As we chomped away, we’d mumble through a conversation about college or the Pirates or a variety of other conversations sons had with their dads in the kitchen such nights.
Other times, my father and mother would be lying in bed in the back room, the lights off, the television light flickering as Johnny Carson delivered his monologue, the window fan humming. We’d chat for a spell before I headed up to bed.
I went to the hardware store to buy a window fan recently. I put it in my bedroom window and have been trying different adjustments to maximize the coolness in my place. Its sound transports me to a time and a place that I’ve been longing for lately.
It reminds me of the constant presence of my father, who spent years tweaking and perfecting the world to make things better for his kids. He was an old-school dad. He lacked skill at articulating his love, so he dedicated himself to showing it.
I know now how profound his presence was. It established order where chaos and emptiness would have been. It permeated every nook and cranny of our home and our lives. It is in me still — it guides me still.
That’s why I shut off the air conditioning most summer nights and run the window fan instead. Its wobbling hum fills me with peacefulness and calm — and reminds me how blessed I was to have such a dad.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.