In the summer of 1979, just after my junior year in college, my father, Paul, saw me off from a train platform at Grand Central Station. He was 55, and had just lost his job as a schoolteacher in Connecticut. I’d been home for a week, and he’d asked me to stay longer, but I was determined to get to a summer job I’d landed in Chicago.
As my train started moving, I saw him out the window — waving, smiling. It was the last time I ever saw him whole. A couple of weeks later, proofreading at a desk at In These Times in Chicago, I got a call from my father’s friend Sam Vogel, saying that Dad had had a heart attack.
As it turned out, Sam was wrong: what Dad had had was a stroke. And the world, as I had known it, stopped, and something new began. I was still a train, still on track, but without an engine — moving forward, but only out of inertia.