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Encyclopedia Dad

Ryan Riley
Jun 15, 2017 · 25 min read

The first time I consult Dad I’m eight. My mom’s dating this guy. He worked with Dad, and I guess he’s nice enough. But I don’t like it.

I go to the library. On the second to bottom shelf, they’re lined up. All twenty-eight volumes of him. He’s there so that at any age I can find him.

I read their spines. The first one reads: “After I Die”. The second one starts at Five Years. They progress by year all the way to Twenty-Five. Then there are six others. One reads “Firsts,” the next reads “Love,” then “Life Lessons,” then “Your Mother,” then “Mistakes,” and finally “Death.”

I trace the lettering with my finger, reading each word out loud. Since I’m eight, the first three are useless. I tell myself I’ll come back to “Eight.” I jump ahead and pull out “Your Mother.”

I blow stiffly at the dust that’s collected. The dust particles dance in a beam of light from the window. I wipe my hand along his leather bound spine and open him. He groans as if he’s never been opened.

Mom had liked the idea at the time. She never pushed him on me. She waited for me to decide when I needed him. She doesn’t know I’m in the library. I don’t know if I will ever tell her.

There is a table of contents with titles for each disc. Each disc is further broken down into chapters.

Disc 1:
Dealing with Her Grief.

Disc 2:
Encouraging Her

Disc 3:
Do as She Says. Okay?

Disc 4:
What to do when my mother or other members of my family come to visit, (What you can do to help her.)

Disc 5:
Mom’s Dating

This is the disc I want.

I break the seal and slide him out of the plastic covering. The TV’s on the shelf next to him. I turn everything on. The blue screen waits for me. The DVD player reads, “Insert Disc.” I lay him down gently in the tray and with a little nudge, he glides into the player.

The blue screen turns black. The menu appears. The background is a picture of him and me. I was just born it looks like. I’m wrapped in a blue blanket from the hospital. I can see mom blurred out in the back, lying in her hospital bed. Dad’s hair is long. His mustache is still brown. In the picture my eyes are open. It’s Mom’s favorite story.

“Your eyes were wide open, and they were so blue,” she always says. He’s pulled me tight to his chest.

The same picture hangs in our hall.

I navigate the remote to “Select Chapters.” I select chapter 1. The screen goes black and then it fades to Dad. He’s in this library. His books are stacked up behind him. It looks as it does today, other than the TV where his head would be. If I sit back far enough the TV seems blends into the books. It looks as if he’s sitting there in front of me.

His hair has thinned, a result of the chemotherapy. He’s smaller. His glasses are too big for his face. He still has a little color and for all intents and purposes, he seems healthy. Maybe he’s acting or maybe he wasn’t as bad off as I thought. He runs his fingers through his hair. The thin strands have been moved away from his forehead.

He smiles. I see him look up above the camera to where mom must be recording. There is an unspoken signal that says they’re ready and he begins.

“Well, hello there. How are you today?” a brief pause for me to respond. I don’t. “So your mom is dating. Let’s just hope it wasn’t the very next day,” he chuckles again and looks up above the camera. I hear mom giggle too.

He coughs. It’s harsh. I feel it in my throat and chest. I see Mom’s hand come towards him. He gestures that’s he’s okay. He sucks back the phlegm and lifts his face. He’s serious now. Cancer reminded him who’s in charge and told him to stop making jokes.

He looks above the camera again and there is another gesture that asks her to leave. His eyes follow her out the door. I hear the door to the library shut.

“So, where were we? Look, I know this will be difficult for you. There’s a level of loyalty one feels for their father. Sure you didn’t know me that well, and since I don’t know how old you are now I still don’t know what you know about me. It’s important to know that people need each other. Your mother’s no different. There are things that a husband, a boyfriend or even just a friend can provide for her that you can’t.

“I know you’re wondering why she needs him. Just trust her. Your mother’s an amazing woman. I know your mother better than you ever will. But we already got into that in ‘Love.’ Just trust that she knows what she’s doing. If I know her as well as I think I do, I know that it’s been at least four years, and I’m assuming you’re eight or nine depending on when I died.

“Believe me it was difficult for her. Still is. You should understand that every time she meets this man, she feels guilty. But after being with him, he helps her forget me. To you, that may sound bad. It may sound like something you don’t want to happen. ‘Why would Mom want to forget Dad?’ Well, son, sometimes it’s easier.

“Your mother will have a long and healthy life. Hell, she may even outlive you. I don’t want her to be alone. I want her to be loved again. She deserves it. I love that you are loyal to me, but know that your mother and I have talked about this and it’s okay with me if it’s okay with her. Trust her, and give the guy a chance. I know he’ll never be as amazing as I am,” he smiles, “but give him a chance. Maybe he’ll surprise you.”

The screen cuts to black and returns to the main menu. I turn it all off and pack everything up. I put Dad back on his shelf. I turn off the light and close the door behind me.

The next time I talk to dad I’m eleven. Mom and Bob are celebrating their second year anniversary. I’m happy for them. Bob’s a great guy. He makes Mom happier than I can remember. Of course, my memories only go back about five or so years. Right around the time, Dad died.

They’re at a nice restaurant. The babysitter is hogging the TV and I have nothing to do. I go into the library to find a book and I see Dad sitting there. I feel guilty immediately for having ignored him for three years. I read over the titles again. This time I stop on 11. I pull him out.

“Hi,” he says, “how are you?”

“I’m fine.”

“I’m glad to hear that. How’s everything been going?”

“Good I guess. I’m eleven now.”

“So you’re eleven now. Wow. Eleven. So that makes what, sixth grade?”


“I take it you did well in the fifth?”

“Yeah, best in my class. Well, other than Lindsey Hamilton.”

“I was always happy you were smart like your mother. Who knows where you would be if you had my brains,” he laughs. His hair is thicker than I remember it. He doesn’t seem as small and his mustache is there, only grayer than the picture in the hall.

“I’m trying to remember when I was in sixth grade. I think I was twelve. My birthday was late so I started a year later than everyone. It was good for football when I was older because I was bigger than everyone. I was the oldest student in our class at graduation. Twelve.

“I met your mother that year. She was in my English class. She sat right in front of me. I hated her,” he looks out the window, thinking about what to say.

“She always knew the answer. I was lucky if I was paying attention, but your mother’s hand, I swear, never went down. She was always,

‘Teacher, ooh, ooh, here,’’ he uses a mocking tone. “The teacher made it an unspoken rule to only call on her three times per class. I remember the moment that I first thought she wasn’t that bad. Mr. Wellington called on me. He asked me something about Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, I don’t remember, the important thing was it was some Mark Twain book that I hadn’t read.

“Your mother of course had read it, probably for the eighth time. Hell, for all I knew she slept with the books he assigned. I could imagine the book lying on the pillow beside her as she slept. I could see it. Anyway. Wellington. He calls me. I have no clue. I had just grasped the concept that Mark Twain wasn’t even his real name,” he laughs, “but I’m sitting there, everyone is staring at me, waiting. Waiting for me to say something, anything. And Mr. Wellington’s one of the teachers who won’t call on another student until you give him an answer. God help you if it’s the wrong answer. ‘Well, Mr. Morris?’ he said. I’m lost, I’m a little scared and then your mother turns to get something out of her purse hanging on the back of her desk, and she whispers the answer to me. I immediately blurt it out, and Mr. Wellington says, ‘Good Mr. Morris, I didn’t think you were paying attention.’ Well, he was right. You know to this day I don’t think I ever read a Mark Twain book.

“I had a point to this,” he trails off into thought.

“Watch out for who you meet in sixth grade. You may end up marrying her. What do you think?” he pauses.

“I think girls are gross. I think that Lindsey Hamilton is the worst of all. She is such a teacher’s pet.”

He chuckles.

“Well, I’m sure I felt the same way when I was your age. But things change. You have to be aware of that. Change is tough. The thoughts you have at eleven will be different than your thoughts at sixteen. The person you are today is not the person you‘ll be in five years. Hell, five months from now you’ll have changed. You’ll be a different person every year until you’re at least twenty-five. Just be open to it. Let yourself become these things. If it makes sense and you’re okay with it, then accept it. Change is good. Sometimes.” He stops and stares at me, not saying anything.

“What?” I ask.

“I’m just trying to think of what else happened when I was twelve. Ah. I broke my leg. Remember that knot I showed you. Or I will show you after this,” he lifts his leg onto the desk and rolls up his pant leg. His legs are muscular and pale white. His hair is blonde to the point of being transparent. From my side of the desk, it looks as if he shaves his legs. “Right there,” he says pointing to a bump in the middle of his shin. It is elevated a few millimeters above the rest of his bone. “That’s where they put one of the screws. Check this out.”

He moves the skin around the screw, if he pulls it tighter I can see its hard edges. All of a sudden I remember his leg. I remember him coming to me in the living room. I was playing with my blocks or some other random toy. “Sean,” he yelled from the library, “I wanna show you something.” He came out of the library and sat down on the floor next to me. He pulled up his pant leg like he just did. I remember touching it. It was hard. I thought it was neat. I pinched the skin and he pretended like it hurt. Then he picked me up and pretended to drop me on my head. He twirled me around and I laughed till I cried. He started to cough and put me back down. Then he laid beside me on the floor and played with me.

“Gross isn’t it,” he says. I turn my attention back to Dad. “I got into a car wreck. I was with your grandmother. There was a drunk driver. We were leaving the grocery store. This was at about 9 am on a Saturday. But he blindsided us. This was before seat belt laws. I don’t remember it really. But I remember the hospital and your grandmother telling me I was thrown into the windshield. That I was lucky that all I got was a broken leg. I spent a month in the hospital. I had a million visitors and tons of ice cream. Then when I came home your uncle had to wait on me. I would just pretend like I couldn’t do it because it hurt my leg and your grandmother would make Sam do it,” he laughs. “I loved it. You don’t know what it’s like to have brothers and sisters. Well, I’m assuming. Your mom may have had another since then. Well, good for her.” He pulls out a pen and writes on a blue post it.

“I should do a chapter on that, don’t you think? Anyway. That’s eleven. Good luck. Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Be careful. Watch out for girls. And I love you,” He stands behind the desk and yells, “Sean,” he’s walking toward the camera, “I wanna show you something.”

I go back to Dad when I’m twelve. I pull out “Firsts.”

“First kiss, huh,” he says, “That’s a big one. That’s the first of all firsts. Congratulations. You’re becoming a man.”

Dad is skinny again. His hair is thinning. He has lost the color he had when I was eleven.

“Well, tell me about it.” He stops and stares out at me.

“It was Lindsey Hamilton. After the basketball game,” I say. Dad tears up but I continue. “We were sitting outside. On a bench waiting for our friends to come out. I was eating Sweet-Tarts that I got at the concession stand. I was swinging my legs, looking down at the ground. Then she said my name, and I turned to her. Then she kissed me. She squashed her face right into mine. I almost choked on a Sweet Tart. She pulled back and I was glad because I could breathe again. But then we did it again when I was ready for it, and then again at the end of the night. It was nice.” I finish. Dad wipes at his eyes. He stares out at me for a few more seconds. Then he speaks.

“Wow. Congratulations. I bet you can’t guess who my first kiss was?”


“Did you say, Mom? Well, you’re right if you did. I know, kind of lame. But I was about thirteen. I don’t know how old you are now but twelve or thirteen is the average age for things like this. I hope you’re around there. I hope you aren’t nine because then we need to talk about some other things. I hope you aren’t thirty. Well, if you’re thirty I don’t know what to say.

“So, anyway, we were. Shit. Where were we? A movie. Yeah. I don’t remember the movie. I remember your mother wore a striped shirt. She had her hair up. Uhm. A skirt. Yeah, she wore a skirt. We had told my mother that her mother was taking us, and then, told her mother that my mother was taking us, but really it was your uncle who dropped us off at the movie.

“So there we were thirteen, without a chaperone. Neither of us had ever been on a date, much less kissed. I remember that the movie was almost over before I could even get the courage to hold her hand. But she was accepting. She took my hand in hers and rubbed her thumb over my hand. I remember that distinctly. I don’t know why, but I do.

At one point though, she just started staring at me. I was trying to watch the movie but I could feel her watching me out of the corner of my eye. I turned and said, ‘What? What are you looking at?’ She smiled. I smiled. I knew what she wanted. I wasn’t stupid. I said I’d never done it, but it didn’t mean that I didn’t know how.

“Anyway. I leaned in. She leaned in, and that was it. I fell in love with her right there. One kiss is all it took. I don’t know if yours was the same. I didn’t really know it at the time, so, depending on your age you may not know it yet either. But, yeah, I fell in love with my first kiss.

“Even if you didn’t. This girl will always have a special place for you. You always remember your firsts. Your first kiss, your first love, your first time. So remember this girl. Just remember everything about these moments because these are the things that make you who you are. I am who I am because of these times. I am the husband and father I am because I fell in love with a little girl in a movie theater. Cherish these moments, and do it as often as you can. If you can kiss her, do it. Remember that when you marry or date. If you can kiss her, do it.

“I’ll talk to you about the importance of consent when we get to your ‘first time. So cherish these moments. When you marry kiss as often as you can. Tell them you love them too, they need to hear that, as do your kids.

“I love you, son. Congratulations.”

I turn off the light and shut the door behind me.

The next time I see Dad, Mom makes me. I’m fifteen, and I stole her car. She and Bob both yelled at me. I didn’t listen to anything they said. I’m not a bad kid. I was just having fun.

Lindsey was mad, too. When I went to her house she wouldn’t go for a ride with me. But I didn’t care. I drove away.

It was only an accident. No one was hurt, but the car was totaled. Bob had just bought it. He loved the car. I know why. I loved driving it too. I hated driving into that wall. I remember thinking, “Oh well.”

Mom yelled all she could, and for the first time I heard her say, “if your father was here he would be very disappointed in you.” I didn’t know what to say. But after she finished she seemed to remember something and she grabbed me by my arm and pulled me into the library.

She pulls “Mistakes” off the shelf and tells me to sit down. She reads through the table of contents. Pulls a disc. Slides it in the player. Pushes a few buttons. Then leaves me alone with my father.

He’s the worst I have seen him, other than when I was four but I hardly remember any of it. He’s wearing a Chicago Cubs hat. It’s pulled back high on his head so that the shadow of the brim doesn’t hide his eyes.

“Well, if you’re sitting there, you fucked up, and your mother is pissed,” he laughs. “We made a deal that she could watch any part of this she wants, but she couldn’t watch this section. This is the part of being a father that is most important. The part where you’re told how things are. How things will be if you continue to do the things you’re doing.”

I don’t want to listen to him. I pull him towards me and flip through the other discs.

“Hey,” he yells. My head shoots up, “you’re going to pay attention to me. Do you understand? Put down whatever it is you have.”

I set him back down on the desk.

“Your mother is a strong, tough woman, and if she has brought you to me it is because it’s serious. Hopefully, you haven’t killed someone but this will be applicable to all of life’s mistakes.” He pauses and shuffles in his seat, I do the same.

“Where do you see your life in five years?”

“I don’t know.”

“You should know. You should always know where your life is going to take you. I didn’t. I do now. I know that tomorrow I may be dead. I know that five years from now I won’t be with you.” He stops. Pulls off his hat. He’s completely bald now. There are a few hairs around his ears. He rubs his head and tosses the hat on the desk between us.

“When I look back at my life I see that I made mistakes. The ones I regret are the ones that hurt you or your mother. I regret that I smoke. Those are things that I can’t change now. It’s too late to change what has happened to me, but when the doctor told me, I knew that I didn’t have much time to be a father to you. I needed more time. So I put this all together for you. And I had to grow up real fast. I had to look at all of life in a matter of months. I had to decide what would be hard for you and what you could figure out for yourself.

“You’re only four now. I’m still new at being a father. But I had to skip ahead so that years from now I could tell you about bullies. My point is you have to know what’s coming and you have to be able to change it or fix it, and you need to grow the fuck up. If you are to learn anything from me it’s that time is short. You don’t need to spend it doing stupid shit. What were you thinking?”

I say nothing. I’m embarrassed.

“Your mother works hard for you, and you need to respect that and respect her. We love you and we tell you what to do so you don’t get hurt. We don’t do it because we hate fun. We do it because we want you to have fun. I don’t know if you know this, but mistakes aren’t fun. Pain is not fun. Death is not fun. These are things we try to avoid. But all of these things are inevitable and the only thing you can do is learn from them. From today on you can stop. You have been given your one mistake. From now on I expect perfection.

“I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I sit here in front of this thing for hours a day hoping to save you from the pain I’ve felt and caused. If you want to know of my mistakes go to the next chapter and you can see you aren’t alone, but learn from my mistakes. I love you.”
Fade to black.

The menu comes up. It’s a picture of Dad and Mom at their wedding. She’s wearing a flowing white gown. Dad has on a white tuxedo with a black collar. My uncle is his best man and my aunt is my mother’s maid of honor. The preacher stands between them. Everyone smiles. I move onto the next chapters and Dad tells me about the time he cheated on my mother. He tells me about the time he snorted cocaine. He tells me about a fight where he sent a man to the hospital. He tells me about the car he stole from his grandmother and how he drove it off a bridge.

He tells me these things, and for the first time I start to know my father.

I see Dad again when I’m eighteen. It’s hours before I graduate. Lindsey is the valedictorian and I want to ask her to marry me. She’s been accepted to Harvard and I haven’t. I want to know what to do with her on one end of the country, and me on the other, without her. I don’t know where to go. I try “Eighteen” and in the table of contents nothing like this comes up. I pull out “Love” and just put in disc one.

Dad is looking a little better than last time I saw him. He’s wearing the Cubs hat. But his posture is a little stronger. He smiles more.

“Love. I thought I would have to spend two volumes on this one. I hope by now you know what a big topic this is. An important one. I think if everything I’ve recorded is lost, that it would be okay as long as you had this. Not because of just love for another, but because of the importance of love for everyone and everything. Little too new age hippy?

“You know I’m not a vegan or anything like that. I love my steak, but love and respect can be synonymous. I don’t believe in God and that is part of my fear, but the closer I get to what’s coming the more I start to think that love is God. Love is spirituality. Love is the thing we all hope to attain, much like the idea of Heaven. You know I love your mother. If anything has turned you off from watching these it is probably my constant blabbering about your mother. I know a boy doesn’t like to hear about his parents being in love or making love or kissing. That’s gross. It was gross to me when my dad would kiss my mother or grab her ass. But when you become a part of love, everything changes. So, back to you. Are you in love?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Well, the thing you need to know for sure is does she feel the same way? As much as you can love someone, they may not feel the same. There is a saying, ‘if you love something set it free.’ And it’s true. With love, the other person is always more important. If she or he doesn’t feel the same, then that’s it. You can’t make someone love you. Maybe you can separate and spend time apart and they may realize they loved you, but you have to let them do their own thing. Each person has to live their life. Separation is tough. You should ask your mom about that. The point is, find out how they feel. If they love you, then you’re set. Just don’t fuck it up. Love them forever. Tell them every day, and do what?”

“Kiss them whenever you can,” I say.

“Kiss them whenever you can,” he repeats, “but never stop loving them, and never stop telling them and they will do the same for you. So tell me about this person.”

“I think you would like her. She reminds me a little of mom. She’s the smartest person I know. She works hard. She takes care of me. She says all the right things and knows when not to say anything. She has brown hair and blue eyes. She’s going to be a doctor. She wants to cure cancer. I don’t know if she can, but she wants to give it a shot. I think it would be ironic if she did. I want her to meet you, but I don’t know how to tell her about this. It’s different. But I think she would understand.”

“That’s nice that you feel that way. Have you told her about this?” he says lifting his arms. “It will be different for some people. I don’t think many have this kind of relationship with their father,” he laughs. “Well, my advice is easy. If ever there is a problem make sure that love is still there. If it is, then nothing bad can happen. You may argue, you may be separated, but as long as that love is there everything will be okay. The important thing is to make sure every now and then that it’s still fresh. How do you do that? Well, that’s one of those things you have to figure out for yourself. Good luck son. I love you. Tell your love I said hello.”

I’m twenty-two and just graduated from college. My degree is in philosophy. Bob asks what I’m going to do with it and honestly, I don’t have an answer for him. He laughs and Mom just says she’s proud of me. I go back to grad school in a few months. I’m waiting by the phone for Lindsey to call. She’s supposed to come in tonight. I haven’t seen her in two months. She missed graduation. I’m nervous because I want her to meet my father.

I go to see dad. I take out Twenty-Two and we talk.

“So you’re twenty-two. Happy birthday. Hopefully, you’re graduating from college this year. None of that five-year bullshit like your uncle or the six-year bullshit like your old man. Maybe you’ve already graduated. If so congrats. If not then shouldn’t you be studying? You don’t want to disappoint your mother.

“I remember when I graduated. I changed my major so many times. I remember I was this close to getting a degree in philosophy. My dad gave me a hard time. He was always, ‘What the hell are you gonna do with philosophy?’ And after a point, I agreed. I changed to business and then two years later I’m working at Eaton, Thomas, and Carver Accounting. I wonder if it’s still there. Anyway. I never regretted it so much, because there was some truth to it. But I wish I had just finished it. Maybe I wouldn’t have used it, but I should have finished. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what to do with your life. The important thing is it’s your life. YOUR LIFE. They have their own lives to worry about. If you want a degree in philosophy then go for it. If you want to get a degree in underwater basket weaving then you do it. Fuck them. But honestly, I hope you didn’t do philosophy. What a fucking waste. You better at least marry well.” He laughs. He’s lost the hat. His cheeks are fuller. He has thinning hair but still fairly full. His mustache is there.

“Where was I at twenty-two? Obviously still in school. I tell you those were a tough few years. Your mother was away in Boston, and I was in Philadelphia. It wasn’t that far but it was far enough. I spent so much money going to see her. I hitchhiked. Don’t ever do that. I took buses. Bummed rides from other students on vacations. Anything to see her. Are we stronger because of the time apart? I don’t know. I like to think that we would be just as great if we had gone to the same school. I hope you haven’t had to do anything like this. I don’t admire you if you did. It’s tough but maybe it’s good for you. I think that’s what people would say. That’s what your grandfather would have told me. ‘It helps the heart grow fonder.’ I don’t know. But twenty-two is a good time. You aren’t quite at the point in your life where you are who you are. You have a few more years. Sure you’ll always grow and change, but you still have some firsts.

“What do you do now? Well, find a job and get out of your mother’s house. Or I guess you go to grad school. If you’re an overachiever like your mother, that would make sense. Especially if you did go with something like philosophy, you better stay in school.

“Anyway, twenty-two. I’m sorry I missed it. I’m sure you looked great in your cap and gown,” his chin starts to quiver, and mine does too. “I missed them both. High school, and now this one. I’m sorry. I truly am. There’s nothing I would rather have seen. Congratulations. I’m so proud of you.”

I sit there for a minute in the library. Dad is gone and I’m alone.
Lindsey calls. She says she’s coming over. She wants to know everything about graduation. Mom and Bob and Lindsey and I all have dinner together. They don’t know I want to introduce her to Dad. I think they’ve been wondering why I never talk about him.

The dishes are cleared and we sit to watch TV. I ask Lindsey to come with me to the library, I have something to show her. Mother looks at me with her knowing smile. She’s proud. Bob is asleep in the recliner. I open the door and tell her to have a seat. She sits in one of the chairs on the other side of the desk. I sit at the other.

“There’s something I’ve wanted to show you for a long time, but I didn’t know how to,” I say.

“What? Is something wrong?”

“No, I… You know my dad died when I was a kid right?”


“He left me something.”

There’s a knock on the door and Mom comes in. She hands me a small case with a disc inside. On the front is a label that reads, “If He Wants to Introduce Me.”

“Show her this one,” Mom says.

Mom leaves. Lindsey’s confused. I tell her my dad recorded some things for me, and he would like for her to see this.

Dad’s sitting in front of us in a suit like he’s about to go on a date. His hair is perfectly combed. His mustache is full. This is before he’s sick or after he just found out.

“Well, hello. My name is Alvin Morris, and I’m his father. I don’t know what he’s told you, so, I’ll start from the beginning. I’m dying. Over there I’m dead. But here I’m only dying. I decided to record a few things for my son. This is actually the first thing. As time passes I’ll become sicker and sicker and look worse and worse. The most important thing for a parent to do when they meet their child’s love or wife or significant other is to not scare them away.

“Your parents are an indication of who you will become. They’re you in the future. They’re you after you’ve done the things you’re going to do. I didn’t want you to see a sick Sean. I want to be healthy when I welcomed you to our family. This may be a little bit odd and perhaps in my effort to not scare you, I’m actually doing it by talking to you through a TV screen. But know that I don’t mean to. Everyone may not understand the importance of this collection. Sean may not even understand it but it allows me to live. Live on maybe, but more to just live for the next few months or year. For as long as I am doing this, I will get to see my son’s first day of school. I’ll see him graduate. I’ll hear about his first kiss. I’ll talk him through a heartbreak, I’ll show him how to throw a baseball. I’ll get to live the things I’ll miss.

“Like now. I can see you sitting there in front of me. I imagine you’re like his mother. You have delicate features. You’re smart as hell. You must be, you chose him. You’re a little nervous. You don’t know how to react. You think this is different but you’re afraid to react because you don’t want to offend anyone. Don’t worry. Love is built on honesty, but remember sometimes it’s better to keep things to yourself. I just wanted to say hello. I just wanted to welcome you to our family. So here goes.

“Hello. Welcome. Lovely meeting you. Keep my son happy. And you, yeah you, keep her happy too. Don’t fuck this up.”

Fade to black.

When I’m twenty-six, Lindsey has our first child. I go to my mother’s house for Dad. I set him up on the bookshelf in my living room. I start from the beginning so my son can talk with his grandfather.


Thank you for reading Encyclopedia Dad. I’ve been so fortunate. The story was optioned by Warner Brothers TV and Gulfstream Pictures. Check out the story below to hear more about the experience. And check out more of my short stories at The Way I Remember It.

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The Way I Remember It

A collection of ever-changing short stories. Genres include science fiction, horror, fantasy and more.

Ryan Riley

Written by

Writer and husband living the dream in Los Angeles. Not sure whose dream but someone wishes they were me.

The Way I Remember It

A collection of ever-changing short stories. Genres include science fiction, horror, fantasy and more.

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