Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Today-- for David Darwin Stahl

Today would have been my father, David Darwin Stahl's, 88th birthday. He was born on January 31, 1918, probably the best thing that happened to the planet in a fateful year when thousands died from the flu. His father, Sam, a screenwriter, named him "Darwin," but being the kind of guy he was, my father decided to switch his first and middle names. It turns out he was right, after all, as Darwin is a heavy name to wear about.

Being the kind of guy he was, he took the money the army paid him for service in World War II, and bought himself a Jaguar with it. When he met my mother, at a dance, she thought he was rich because of his car, and when he came to pick her up, on their first date, my grandmother Rose asked what he did for a living; "I'm a poet," he told her. My grandmother dragged my mother into the kitchen, and screamed, "a poet? Poets don't have money!" (the irony of those words was never lost on me, alas) "But he drives a Jaguar," my mother said morosely.

Oh, what a beautiful dreamer you were, David Darwin. Too radical for the Communist Party, and about the only person I know who loves politics more than I do. You brought me chocolate hearts every Valentine's Day, and laughed when I'd rip the paper off, throw the ribbons to the floor, so eager to get at the chocolate. You'd let me climb on your back, and give me endless piggyback rides around the livingroom. Most of all, you understood my restlessness, and need to be alone, a hunger to go off to those places where no one, and nothing, else was in sight.

I miss you, and love you, no less now than when you left the planet, nearly 17 years ago, and I rejoice at the sight of the twinkle in your eyes, now forever in my own. While you got a late start on fatherhood, fatherhood would never be the same without you.

(A footnote: Never had the pleasure of meeting my grandfather, Sam Stahl, who left his family, moved into the Times Square Hotel, where, rumor has it, he feverishly typed screenplays all night long making quite a commotion. He ultimately moved to California, and was never to be heard from again...)