In the final weeks before his death in 2005, my father drifted in and out of a morphine-induced haze which, given his extravagant imagination and wit, made most of the time I spent with him during those last days poignantly entertaining.
He awoke from one of his dreams one day and said, “I had a wagon and it was full of words, like blocks. The wagon was full and overflowing, and every block had a word on it. And I pulled the thing everywhere I went. I was pulling my words in a wagon, for God’s sake! And people were saying, Rabinowitz, what do you think you’re doing? Haven’t you ever heard of a dictionary?”
My father loved words – really, he treasured them. And he shlepped that wagon enthusiastically. What a writer and conversationalist he was! He built gravity-defying edifices with words – flights of pure fancy that charmed and instructed. Anyone who ever had a conversation with my father or received a letter from him knows what I’m talking about. (You know who you are.)
I realized when he died and I understand now: my father’s legacy to me was the wagon of words. The job and privilege of pulling that wagon has fallen to me. And now I make my living choosing words out of the vast repository that has accumulated through the years, fashioning them into phrases and sentences and paragraphs, and then releasing them to take wing and fly into the world where they might, God willing, bring a smile and do some good.