When I was a young child our home was a solid, two story, wooden structure perched on a sloping, gentle hill near a lake in Northern Illinois. We had all four seasons and we had them in full measure in that geography. Equal to them was my father. His nature and strength held as much dominion over me as any winter, any summer. The smallest movements from his stone strong hands as he folded his morning newspaper with one and cradled a cup of coffee, feeling it’s warmth, measuring it’s readiness with the other were quiet, yet portentous signs, like weather, the language of birds, the music in a movie to me, his second son.
We had a porch that was enclosed and paneled in knotty pinewood where he took his breakfast. Five windows allowed a view of our sweeping front yard, the towering mix of trees and the garage that housed his latest Cadillac. He was fully dressed and at the table when I would finish my bowl of cereal in the kitchen and enter in tip toe still wearing my pajamas. His heavy cufflinks tapping against his “Captain’s Table” and the susurration of the newspapers were the only sounds in that sanctuary he loved. His starched, white, dress shirt, dark tie, and an impeccable suit hugged his still football player strong shoulders. He smelled of hair tonic, soap, subtle cologne and…as enticingly of all; dark, freshly-brewed coffee.
At that time of my life the world was safe and in order. My mother and father still lived together. She was beautiful and catered to him with a plate of bacon or pork sausages, sunny side up eggs, buttered toast and her deep-red, homemade strawberry preserves. He would stroke the small of her back as she poured him a second cup before returning to the adjoining kitchen, closing the porch door to insure quiet from my sisters, one older, one younger, as they readied for school. Being a young male child, I suppose, I was allowed to have a rare interlude like this, ‘just guys’. Perhaps that gave me the audacity to ask him for coffee one winter morning.
He set aside his newspaper and studied me a bit that first time. Being married, (and still acting like it back then) he probably contemplated a wife’s logical (and likely!) protestation of a child on caffeine. But being a salesman, (‘Van Aken Motors, New & Used Cars’) he brokered a middle ground. He prepared me for the adult flavors of coffee by adding a jigger more of ‘half & half’ to it along with a mounded teaspoon of sugar, and then, dipping a torn portion, he dunked his warm toast in it. I was allowed to eat the coffee-drenched toast, (not to drink the brew itself). He pulled me on to his lap and rubbed his cheek to mine and smiled with a rugged beauty I could only wish for. To this day I love that combination of flavors and textures he gave me. While it might seem the butter on the toast would not belong it most certainly does. Why? It is because the way I was introduced to it. By my Daddy.