Bob, Weave, Float, Sting

Here’s my draft for Friday 04.19.19. I’ve written about my father many times over the years. I never get tired of telling his story. This one’s called

Bob, Weave, Float, Sting

I loved to watch boxing, just as my dad did. Sitting together we would talk about the elements of the dance, the improvising of moves, feints and footwork, the art of the jab, the momentary hard flick and stick, the sweep angle of a hook, combinations struck at lightning speed, the strategic hunt to draw blood from the brow so it would seep down and obscure an opponent’s sight, or swell the area so much that the eyes would close. We loved Rene Barrientos and Adolph Pruitt, our favorite fighters because they were nasty craftsmen so surgically skilled when it came to punishing opponents, taking them apart.

My dad spent almost exactly, to the month, the last three years of his life confined to bed in a nursing home. He ate so little that he looked, in the end, as if he’d returned to his fighting weight. He could not stand up, for three long years, wore a diaper to catch the urine and excrement.

Some visits I would watch them change him, raising his legs, his howls of pain, while they wiped him as quickly as possible, then diapered him again. He’d stop screaming, then we’d watch TV, boxing of course if it were on. His dementia grew worse, he would mumble sometimes, rave on about all kinds of things, while we watched the fights.

By the end I’m pretty sure he no longer could see the matchesto make sense of them, so I would try to describe them to himlike a TV commentator, a poor one, even if he couldn’t understand me.

He fought as a featherweight in his college days at Wisconsin. He was that skinny, but he was, by all accounts, a vicious tactician who went undefeated. Growing up in Kekaha, the Waimea district, on the island of Kaua’i, he and his friends all had nicknames. His was “Beanpole.”

He taught me how to box, and the very last time we sparred, I hit him so hard, accidentally, that he put away the gloves and we never squared off again. I hate that day.

After he died, while I was cleaning out his drawers and closets, I came across those gloves, rotted away, wrapped up in a brown paper bag tucked deep in a dark corner.

I threw the gloves away, and I’ve never watched a single match since he died.

My dad at the hibachi. He loved to barbecue. My guess would be that he’s grilling some Korean-style short ribs called kalbi. I’m on the left, my sister’s on the right, and my mom’s the photographer.

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