I couldn’t shut up about Papa. In fifth grade, this kid Neil was sitting next to me on the bleachers. Los Angeles. We were sweating, waiting for a parent to put us in a car and out of our misery. I must have been going on. Finally, Neil turned to me and said, “Is your dad dead or something?”
I went red. Then silent. Then I must have cried. The next day Miss Campeau insisted that Neil apologize.
Papa shaved in the mornings with a little yellow brush while I read the back of the cereal box and listened to his pocket radio on the kitchen table. Then the drive to school: major battles of World War II and how to orient yourself using the sun and how to spell state names on license plates. “Mississippi” amazed him every time. I always got it right.